American Goldfinches at the Small Quick-Clean Finch Feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited.
I stopped at the store in Danvers, Massachusetts a week or so ago on my way home from Boston. I said I wanted to replace my thistle sock because, in our climate, especially in winter, the seed gets damp before they eat it all. And damp thistle seed can get moldy easily – which is not good for the birds.
The WBU store had a big selection of finch feeders. The goldfinches (and chickadees) and I are very happy with our choice.
Plus, I had a long conversation about birds and lots of other things with the nice man who helped me. Because watching backyard birds is most often a solo hobby, I forget there are many other people out there of like mind.
Note how the seed is being sucked into the vortex of the beak-and-seed sized hole.
I like the reinforced metal around the opening for sturdiness and squirrel-be-gone effect. I like the plastic perches – metal is colder in winter.
While preparing to write this post I learned something new: the seed that goldfinches love called thistle or nyjer or niger or nyger is not from the weedy prickly flowering plants we think of when we use the word thistle. Not this…
From The Zen Birdfeeder, a blog of a Wild Birds Unlimited store owner: Top 5 Things to Know About Niger Seed
2) NIGER SEED IS NOT THISTLE SEED (AND OTHER CONFUSING THINGS ABOUT THE NAME)
Niger seed used to be called thistle, but it is not the noxious thistle weed we see growing on roadsides. It typically will not germinate under your feeders since the USDA requires that all niger seed imported to this country be heat-treated to sterilize the seed.
Niger is an agricultural crop imported primarily from India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Burma (Myanmar). In these countries, it is processed into both cooking and lighting oil. You may also see it called Nyger®.
Wikipedia: Guizotia abyssinica is an erect, stout, branched annual herb, grown for its edible oil and seed. Its cultivation originated in the Ethiopian highlands, and has spread to other parts of Ethiopia. Common names include: noog/nug (Ethio-Semitic ኑግ nūg); niger, nyger, nyjer, or Niger seed; ramtil or ramtilla; inga seed; and blackseed, khursani in marathi Gujitilin Assamese
The seed, technically a fruit called an achene, is often sold as birdseed as it is a favourite of finches, especially the Goldfinch and the Greenfinch. In the birdseed market, Nyjer is often sold or referred to as thistle seed. This is a misnomer resulting from early marketing of the seed as “thistle” to take advantage of the finches’ preference for thistle.
Niger is in the Asteraceae family, like thistle. But so are 23,000 other species of flowering plants.
Goldfinches are members of the finch family of seed-eating songbirds, Fringillidae.
Is it odd we are feeding our native songbirds exotic seeds grown halfway around the world? I have read there are attempts to grow the seed in the U.S. More on that in a future post.
from I Stood Tiptoe
John Keats c. 1817
Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
From low hung branches; little space they stop;
But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;
Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:
Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings,
Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.
Fascinating story on thistle. And what did/ do finches eat besides it was imported? Other small, oily seeds I imagine. And thanks for Leats poem. He’s my fave or top 5 anyway.
Typos. Wouldn’t let me correct. Oh dear!
I have seen them eat from the mixed seed tube – I think white millet and some black oil sunflower seeds.