Nyjer / Thistle Feeders

Please see my gold star ratings & reviews for nyjer feeders & seed here on this page.

Nyjer or Thistle Seed Feeders are Great Attractors for Goldfinches

1. General Review of  Nyjer/Thistle Feeders

Thistle feeders, or as they are more commonly known, nyjer (sometimes spelt niger) seed feeders, make a great addition to any backyard because of their amazing attraction power.

Nyjer seed feeders are just what the “bird” doctor ordered if you want to attract Goldfinches to your yard. The prospect of dozens of brightly colored yellow birds flitting about my backyard brings a big smile to my face.

(You will find links to more info related to this topic in the right column or bottom of page.)

Remember that Goldfinches are year-round visitors to your backyard. However, you may not recognize them as easily in the winter. As winter approaches, the males undergo a cosmetic change. Their brilliant yellow fades and it is difficult to tell them apart from the paler females.

Goldfinches will nosh on many different bird seeds, but thistle seed, which is also known as nyjer seed, is their very favorite food. So, if you keep a well-stocked thistle feeder in your backyard, you will have flocks of visitors twelve months of the year.

Nyjer, Niger or Thistle Seed?

Lets have some clarity.

Nyjer is grown in India, Africa and Southeast Asia. 

Niger, spelled this way, is believed to be derived from the country Nigeria where the seed is originally from.

Nyjer, spelt this way, is the trade name given by the Wild Bird Feeding Industry in 1998.

Thistle was adopted as a name for this seed as people associated Gold Finches with using thistle down to build their nests, then eating the seed as it ripens in the down and feeding it to their young. Observing that Gold Finches love Nyjer seed and it is "similar" looking to thistle seed, is believed to be the path of Nyjer seed also being called thistle seed.

(You can see a Gold Finch nest with thistle down easily visible here.)

2. List of Styles:

  • Usually they are slender tube style bird feeders with tiny feeding ports. It is necessary for the feeding ports to be small as thistle seed is tiny and light weight. It would blow out of an ordinary feeder quickly.
  • This type of feeder can also come in other shapes than a tube. Many wild bird stores sell a variety of shapes.
  • Some nyjer seed feeders are designed very similarly to a chalet feeder, but with the seed openings much smaller and a perch for the little birds to sit on.

  • An upside-down thistle feeder have the perches above the seed ports. The only birds that can manage this easily are Goldfinches, Chickadees and Pine Siskins.
  • Sock feeders are also available for purchase to hold nyjer seed. Sock feeders are usually a nylon netting in the shape of a long sock without the foot. Dozens of birds can dine at one time on this inexpensive feeder. They simply land, cling and pull out thistle seeds through the mesh while hanging upside down or side ways. -->

Thistle Seed Feeders I Recommend & Rate

Thistle Seed & Finch Mixed Seed
(Finches love mixed seed too, but maybe not quite as much as straight thistle seed.)

3. Best Seed Choices

Surprise! Thistle bird seed or also called nyjer seed. (Couldn’t resist.) ;)

4. Positives For This Type of Feeder

  • Attracts American Goldfinches in droves and they are a delight to watch.
  • Another positive feature of the thistle bird feeder is that the perches are too difficult to manage and ports are too small to allow Black Birds, Starlings or most other nuisance birds the opportunity to feed. Consequently, your thistle seed will be consumed only by a few types of birds, the ones you want.

5. Problems for Thistle Feeders

  • Nyjer seed is a very small, light-weight black seed. It is so small that ordinary bird feeders cannot hold the thistle seeds. Even a gentle breeze will knock the nyjer out the ports and on to the ground.
  • Nyjer seed is not inexpensive, but well worth it.

So, the answer to this problem is simple. You need to pay a visit to your local wild bird store and purchase a thistle feeder. These cylindrical feeders have tiny narrow port holes. This means that the seeds cannot easily fall out or be blown away.

”Feeling a Little Foolish”

I know this first hand. This took place many years ago. I had heard that you could attract dozens of Goldfinches and other pretty little birds by putting out thistle seed.
So I bought a bag, which was no small feat especially in those days as it was proportionately more expensive than it is today.
When I arrived home, I opened the bag and poured it into a small chalet style feeder that I had used for sunflower seed.
I hung it just outside my kitchen window and waited with great expectation.
As I passed by a short time later I noticed the feeder was already half empty and I knew that it wasn’t from hoards of cute little feathered friends dining on the yummy lunch I had put out. As I looked in dismay I could see a small breeze blow the light seed in a swirl away from the feeder.
I quickly went out and rescued the remaining seed. The next trip to town included a special thistle feeder.

  • Where you locate your thistle bird feeder in your backyard is important too. Although the Finches and Chickadees are very social and not afraid to visit feeders located almost anywhere in your yard, Goldfinches are nervous birds. Therefore you may have to place your thistle seed feeder in several locations before you find the spot that suits these skittish little fellows.

”Finicky About Placement”

We experienced how gold finches can be very choosy about the location of their feeder.
When I brought home our first finch feeder from our local wild bird store, I had my husband mount a pole for this feeder about four feet from our backyard deck.
While we sat on our deck chairs waiting for the first visitors to our new feeder, dozens of gold finches sat in the trees that surrounded the perimeter of our yard. After several minutes, our new feeder still had not served its first meal to our golden little friends.
I suggested that my husband should move the thistle feeder further from our deck. He moved the feeder to a distance of eight feet from the deck.
Before he could sit down in his deck chair our new thistle feeder was teeming with little yellow visitors.
We had so many visitors that day, the next day we made another visit to the bird seed supplier and purchased another thistle feeder.

6. User Opinions

I have never heard a negative comment concerning the use of a nyjer seed feeder, except for 2 things:

    1. The expense of purchasing thistle seed.

    2. Disappearing birds during seasonal changes.

Most bird watchers are delighted with the entertainment provided by their visitors to a thistle bird feeder.

7. List of Birds Attracted to This Feeder

American Goldfinch

House Finch

Purple Finch

Pine Siskin


But thistle feeders do not only attract Goldfinches. House Finches, Purple Finches and Chickadees love to join the hoards of Goldfinches at thistle feeders.

But, the dining guests are not limited to these birds. We have often seen Mourning Doves and Sparrows of various kinds on the ground below our nyjer seed feeder, cleaning up the nyjer seeds that have been spilled from the feeder.

Other birds as they migrate through our area will stop in too, such as Juncos in the autumn.

So if you want your backyard alive with color, cheery sounds and lots of wild bird activity put out a thistle feeder and enjoy!

Become A Backyard Bird Expert

        Would you like to be a bird expert able to:

  • Know by sight all the birds that visit your backyard?
  • Identify the birds you hear on a walk?
  • Answer your Grandkids or friends question, "What bird is that?".

Looking for a particular product? Search here!

There are many types of wild bird feeders listed in the right column above & a few here to get you started

  • Bluebird Feeder - The wriggly morsels that are placed in Bluebird feeders do have charming ways, not only for Bluebirds but many other species too.
  • Tube Feeders - This type of feeder can be used to attract smaller specific types of birds. They also serve as a deterrent for birds which are considered pests.

> > Thistle Bird Feeders

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