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Everything You Need to Know for Attracting Wild Birds Niger Seeds


Niger seeds are a popular choice for wild bird enthusiasts, but what do we truly know about these small and exotic seeds? If you’re new to this premium bird food, this comprehensive guide will explain why you should consider using niger seeds in your garden. Read on to discover more about this fascinating seed.

Niger or Nyjer – What’s the Difference?

There is no consensus on the correct term. Niger, nijer, nyjer, or thistle seed are common variations, but it doesn’t matter which one you use. For consistency, we will use “niger” in this guide. The varying names might confuse some, but rest assured they all refer to the same beneficial seed. Understanding this helps in ensuring you purchase the right product for your feathered friends.

Origins of Niger Seeds

Niger seeds originate from the Ethiopian highlands and other parts of Africa, such as Malawi. Commercial production spans Nigeria, Ethiopia, Southeast Asia, and India. The plant that produces niger seeds is scientifically known as Guizotia abyssinica. Despite their resemblance to thistle seeds, niger seeds are distinct, though finches enjoy both. The regions where these seeds are grown provide the perfect climate and soil conditions, which contribute to their rich nutritional profile.

What Are Niger Seeds?

Niger seeds are tiny, black seeds that sprout into yellow flowers. They are often mistaken for thistle seeds because finches favour both types. Before export, niger seeds are sterilised at high temperatures to prevent germination and protect native plants from potential harm. This sterilisation process ensures that the seeds can be safely used in bird feeders without the risk of them sprouting and becoming invasive in non-native ecosystems.

Uses of Niger Seeds

Besides bird feed, niger seeds are used in human cuisine. The seeds and their oil are ingredients in curries, chutneys, and other dishes. They also have numerous medicinal applications. The oil extracted from niger seeds is known for its high nutritional value and is often used in traditional medicine to treat ailments such as coughs, colds, and even some inflammatory conditions. The versatility of niger seeds makes them a valuable resource in both culinary and medicinal contexts.

Nutritional Benefits of Niger Seeds

Niger Seed Nutrition (per 100g):

  • Calories: 515
  • Fat: 39g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Potassium: 0mg
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Fibre: 11g
  • Protein: 24g
  • Vitamin A: 0%
  • Vitamin C: 0%
  • Calcium: 300%
  • Iron: 57%

Niger seeds are packed with essential nutrients, making them a powerhouse of health benefits for both birds and humans. Their high fat content provides a vital energy source, particularly during the colder months when birds need extra calories to maintain their body heat. The significant amount of protein supports muscle repair and growth, crucial for birds during moulting season when they replace old feathers with new ones.

How to Use Niger Seeds for Birds

Niger seeds are rich in oil and nutrients, making them an excellent food source for garden birds year-round. They are especially beneficial in winter, providing extra calories to help birds store fat and stay warm. The high protein content aids feather regeneration during moulting. Using niger seeds can significantly enhance the health and vitality of your local bird population.

Feeding Tips:

  • Use a specialised niger seed feeder: These feeders are designed with small holes that dispense the tiny seeds efficiently, minimising waste.
  • Place feeders in quiet, sheltered areas: This helps the birds feel safe while feeding.
  • Regularly clean feeders: To prevent mould and bacteria build-up, clean the feeders every few weeks.

Birds That Eat Niger Seeds

Small seed-eating birds, such as finches and sparrows, are particularly skilled at consuming niger seeds. These birds have small, pointed beaks ideal for cracking the seeds. When feeding from a niger seed feeder, they often display acrobatic skills, such as feeding upside down, which helps them in the wild. However, niger seeds can also attract larger birds like pigeons, which may scour the ground for fallen seeds. Using a seed tray attached to the feeder can minimise seed loss and deter these bigger birds.

Types of Birds Attracted to Niger Seeds

  • Sparrows: These adaptable birds are common visitors to gardens and quickly learn to feed on niger seeds.
  • Siskins: With their bright yellow plumage, siskins add a splash of colour to your garden.
  • Finches: Particularly goldfinches and greenfinches, known for their vibrant colors and melodious songs.
  • Redpolls: These small, streaked brown birds with red caps are winter visitors to many gardens.
  • Pigeons: Although they can be considered nuisance birds, pigeons are also attracted to niger seeds.
  • Doves: Gentle and graceful, doves will often visit feeders offering niger seeds.

Niger seeds are a fantastic addition to any bird enthusiast’s garden. They offer high nutritional value and attract a variety of small, acrobatic birds. Whether you’re a seasoned bird watcher or a beginner, incorporating niger seeds into your feeding routine will help support your local bird population and enhance your garden’s wildlife. By providing a reliable food source, you’ll be rewarded with the sights and sounds of a vibrant bird community, making your garden a lively and engaging place to be.

Additional Tips for Bird Enthusiasts

  • Seasonal Adjustments: Adjust the amount of niger seed you put out according to the season. Birds need more energy during winter, so increase the supply during colder months.
  • Monitoring Bird Health: Keep an eye on the birds visiting your feeders. Healthy feathers and active behaviour are good indicators of the benefits provided by niger seeds.
  • Combining Seeds: Mix niger seeds with other bird seeds to attract a wider variety of birds. Sunflower hearts and millet are excellent choices to complement niger seeds.


Niger seeds are a versatile, nutritious, and highly attractive food for wild birds. By understanding their benefits and how to use them effectively, you can create a thriving haven for birds right in your backyard. Enjoy the beauty and joy that these wonderful creatures bring to your garden.

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