Nyjer is excellent to feed small finches and other clinging birds, but what is the best way to offer these tiny seeds to backyard birds? Understanding how to feed birds Nyjer can help backyard birders add this popular seed to their feeder buffet without problems.
Nyjer can be purchased as a plain seed in both small and large quantities. Larger bags, while more expensive, often have a better per-pound price that can be cost effective for feeding large amounts of Nyjer in an active backyard. Nyjer is also available as a component in different birdseed mixes, usually combined with small sunflower chips or millet for a specialized finch or canary blend. Backyard birders can also create their own finch mix by blending Nyjer with other seeds to attract different bird species.
Because Nyjer seeds are so tiny – one pound can contain more than 130,000 seeds – specialized feeders are essential to prevent wasted seed. The best feeders for offering Nyjer to backyard birds include:
- Finch Tubes: These specialized tube feeders have small, narrow feeding ports to control the flow of Nyjer for more economical feeding. Finch tube feeders may have a single tube with only a few feeding ports, but because many Nyjer-loving finches travel in large flocks, large or multiple tubes with more feeding ports can accommodate a greater number of birds. Some tube feeders have convertible feeding ports that can be rotated or moved depending on the type of seed offered, including small ports for Nyjer. Perches on finch tubes may be either above or below the feeding ports, since many finches are adept at feeding upside down and this can discourage other birds from usurping the Nyjer.
- Mesh Feeders: Because many finches that prefer Nyjer are acrobatic feeders, open mesh feeders are popular designs for feeding Nyjer. These feeders have a plastic or metal mesh that forms the body of the feeder and allows the birds to cling directly to the feeding surface while they pluck seeds through other holes in the mesh. Conventional tube shapes are popular for mesh feeders, or more aesthetic designs such as balls or angled surfaces can accommodate higher numbers of birds. These feeders lack any designated feeding ports or perches, since the birds cling to and directly feed from the surface.
- Sock Feeders: Mesh socks are a popular design for feeding Nyjer. The socks, often made from nylon or similar materials, have the advantage of mesh feeders to accommodate clinging birds, but can adjust to the shape of the seed to ensure that no seed is inaccessible as the birds feed. Sock feeders are usually less expensive than mesh feeders but they can also wear out or tear more easily from contact with small birds' talons. They are easily replaced, however, and can be cleaned more easily than other Nyjer feeder designs.
While these three types of feeders are the best for offering Nyjer to backyard birds, it is important to note what feeders are worst for this type of birdseed. Open trays or platforms, while they could hold a large quantity of Nyjer, aren't preferred because the expensive seed can too easily blow away or be eaten by less desirable birds. Traditional seed feeders such as hoppers or mixed seed feeders are also poor choices because they have larger feeding ports that will not control the seed flow economically. Some backyard birders, however, do prefer to use larger, more open feeders for Nyjer during late summer or migration seasons when huge numbers of finches may be competing for the seed.
Problems With Feeding Nyjer
Nyjer may be a popular birdseed, but there can be problems when offering it to backyard birds.
- Expense: Pound for pound, Nyjer is one of the most expensive types of birdseed, and is even referred to as "black gold" by experienced backyard birders, not only because of how attractive it is to different species, but because of its cost. Offering Nyjer in more restrictive finch tube feeders can help control the expense, or opting for a finch blend that only uses Nyjer as one component can be effective at saving money on this seed. Putting trays underneath Nyjer feeders can also help catch spilled seed and give more birds room to feed without refilling feeders as frequently.
- Mess: Because the birds that eat Nyjer will consume hundreds or thousands of seeds, the hulls of these tiny seeds can accumulate quickly beneath feeders. Adding a tray, screen or other way to catch seed beneath the feeder can help control hull accumulation, and cleaning under feeders regularly is essential. Ground-feeding birds such as doves and quail will feed beneath Nyjer feeders as well, helping keep the area free of seeds, though they do not consume the seed hulls.
- Spoiled Seed: The most popular Nyjer feeders are open feeder designs that allow more moisture to come in contact with the seed. This can cause the seed to spoil more easily, and spoiled seed is unhealthy and attracts fewer birds. To protect Nyjer feeders, add baffles or covers to the feeders and place them in sheltered locations. When seed does get wet, shake or stir the seed to keep it from clumping and clogging feeders (rolling socks between two hands will break up clumps in those feeders), and change seed often or feed less Nyjer in very wet, humid climates so the seed does not have the opportunity to spoil.
Nyjer can be a great addition to a backyard buffet, but it is an expensive birdseed and can be wasted easily. By choosing the right feeders and taking steps to protect the seed, Nyjer can be a popular treat at backyard feeders.
Photo – American Goldfinch on a Nyjer Sock Feeder © fishhawk