Niger seed (also referred to as Nyger Seed or Nyjer Seed), is highly nutritious containing proteins, oils and soluble sugars. It is quite a popular seed that is commonly fed to birds in garden feeders across the world.
The seed comes from the African yellow daisy (Guizotia abyssinica) and closely resembles sunflower seeds in their shape, but are much smaller and black - this is one of the reasons they are suitable for smaller birds that can be found in your garden.
The majority of small garden birds will eat niger seed, but some species like it more than others. Particularly birds with smaller, sharp beaks are typically attracted to niger seed, as they have the ability to crack the tiny shells of the seed with ease.
Common Redpoll eating Niger Seed from a bird feeder
If you happen to see what looks like Niger Seed on the ground, it will most likely be the shells of the seed (husks) - not your birds throwing them away!
It can be a good idea to buy a ready filled bird feeder with niger seed first to see if it's something the birds in your garden like. If they do like it, then it's worth investing in a specialised feeder that can accommodate the seed and not let it spill out easily - this is because the seed is very small.
If you're introducing niger seed into your existing feeders, we'd recommend starting with a small amount - roughly fill a third of the feeder. This gives the birds a chance to get used to it and will make sure that it doesn't just sit and go dry. Once they start eating it, you can gradually increase the seed quantity.
Niger seed will dry out when it's left on feeders for too long - this is generally after around 4 weeks. Once the oils have dried out, the niger seed loses its food value and flavour, and in turn, birds will become fussy and stop eating it. Keeping the seed fresh will help keep birds coming back to feed more frequently.
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