Thistle Feeders Attract Goldfinches In Abundance

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thistle feedersThistle Feeders Are A Magnet For American 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 amazingattraction 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.

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 Goldfinch nest with thistle down easily visible here.)

2. List of Styles:

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  • 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.

  • Goldfinches love black-oil sunflower seed and white millet too which can be offered along with thistle seed in a triple tube feeder.

  • An upside-down thistle feeder has the perches above the seed ports. The only birds that can manage this easily are little birds like Goldfinches, Chickadees, and Pine Siskins.

  • A Goldfinch feeder can also come in other shapes than a tube. 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.
  • Sock feeders are well-liked by Goldfinches and Chickadees. 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 sideways.

Thistle Seed Feeders I Recommend
With Gold Star Rating

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Reuse, recycle, or upcycle soda bottles.

3 Hanging Soda Bottle Bird Feeders

These 2 feeders are large capacity,

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. (Learn more about feeding finches.)
  • 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
  • Chickadee

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!

All About Bird Feeders

  • How to Clean Seed Feeders When we make the decision to draw wild birds to our backyards with feeders, baths or houses we also, whether we first realize it or not, must be committed to keeping them clean.
  • How to Feed Finches? Feeding Finches of all varieties is very rewarding. Find out what they like to eat and the best feeders to use.
  • Take the Bird Feeder Quiz We can learn so much from taking quizzes that test our knowledge. You may be surprised at how much you know and have fun doing it too.
  • Bird Feeders FAQ Check out what other bird watchers are curious about and discover the answers to questions that are often very common among backyard birders. Throw your helpful ideas in too.

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