Since it is sterilized it will not sprout under your bird feeder. This is a favorite food of small finches such as goldfinches, siskins, and house finches.
The inedible hulls of the sunflower seeds that the birds “spit out” have a natural chemical that keeps most other plant seeds from germinating. Thus, the ground under your feeder is often bare of grass.
Feed only seeds that birds like
Feeders themselves don’t stop bird seed from sprouting. However, the bird feeder and how it is hung up can change the amount of seed falling to the ground uneaten.
Spread bird seed on a flat baking sheet that has a lip all the way around. Preheat your conventional oven to 250˚ F. Place the baking sheet with bird seed in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
Perhaps there’s an area at the edge of your lawn that you can let go to dirt. This can be under some evergreen bushes. It could be at the edge of a “wild” area.
A month ago, a friend gave me an opened bag of thistle, saying she got it from someone who started feeding this to the birds, but noticed thistle sprouting around her place where she had none before. This friend did not want to risk having any in her yard, so was passing it on to me. Now I hear others saying they have stopped feeding thistle to the birds for that reason. This aroused my curiosity: Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.
If you find thistles growing in your yard, it might be from seed blowing in from a nearby location. Continue to fill your socks and finch feeders with this seed and enjoy the birds!
Here is what I learned after searching:
When I started feeding thistle to the birds, I heard somewhere that it will not germinate. I felt safe that I was not adding any more of the invasive plant to our environment.
1. It is not a thistle at all, but rather Niger Plant (Guizotia abyssinica). It is believed “thistle” was used in early marketing to take advantage of the Goldfinches’ preference for thistle seeds. The plant has no prickles and it is related to sunflowers. The Wild Bird Feeding Industry has trademarked the name Nyjer in an attempt to eliminate further confusion and avoid possible mispronunciation.
2. This seed should not germinate here. As of 1982, the USDA required the imported seed to be sterilized through a heat-treatment process. In 2001, they increased the temperature because the original requirement didn’t quite do the job. Some known invasives would get into the Nyjer and grow here.
3. Cultivars have been developed in the US for agricultural production, and this is not considered to be a Federal noxious weed.
Nyjer is a small, thin, black seed from the African yellow daisy (Guizotia abyssinica). Though it is not related to the thistle plant, Nyjer is often referred to casually as “thistle seed.” High in oil, it is a nutritious source of energy for backyard birds and is one of the most popular types of birdseed. Depending on crops, import prices, and retailer options, however, it can also be one of the most expensive birdseeds. To lower the cost, many backyard birders prefer to offer Nyjer in limited quantities or will choose specialized feeders to ensure the seed is not accidentally spilled and wasted. Nyjer is also often found in finch mix or canary birdseed blends, often with sunflower chips or small millet seeds that also appeal to the birds that eat Nyjer. Because these mixes have smaller proportions of Nyjer, they are often less expensive than pure thistle seed.
To attract birds by offering Nyjer, select appropriate bird feeders that have small mesh or tiny feeding ports to release the seed without spilling. Either soft mesh sock-style feeders or more durable metal mesh feeders can be suitable. For many birders, offering Nyjer in the winter is the best option, as many seed-eating birds are year-round residents but natural seed supplies are scarce in winter, so thistle seed feeders will be more popular. Birders who have not offered Nyjer before may choose mixed seed that includes Nyjer first to help the birds get accustomed to the new seed. Tricks to attract birds to a new feeder can also be useful for introducing birds to Nyjer.
Nyjer is a popular seed with many other finches, sparrows, doves, towhees, quail, and buntings. Even unexpected birds may try a bite of Nyjer when it is offered, and woodpeckers, thrushes, chickadees, and other birds have been spotted snacking at thistle seed feeders.
Birds that prefer Nyjer are seed-eating bird species. They typically have smaller, sharply-pointed bills that can easily manipulate such tiny seeds to crack shells and extract the rich seeds. Many Nyjer-loving birds are also called clinging birds because of their habit of acrobatically clinging to the sides of feeders rather than perching while feeding, and many of them can even eat upside down. These foraging habits help them feed on the natural seeds of flowers, which could be at unusual angles or waving in the wind when the birds are eating. Still, other bird species that feed on Nyjer are ground-feeding birds that will forage in leaf litter after flowers have shed their seeds. These larger seed-eating birds will also gather beneath specialized Nyjer feeders and sift through discarded shells for any seeds that have been spilled.
Even if there are plenty of finches visiting the feeders, they may forsake a Nyjer feeder if there are abundant natural foods available instead. If the backyard landscaping includes plentiful seed-bearing flowers for birds, an extra feeder may be ignored until the natural seed supplies are exhausted. In these cases, backyard birders often take down Nyjer feeders in late summer and fall when natural seeds are plentiful, but those feeders will be welcome and popular from late fall through early summer.