Posts Tagged ‘goldfinch’


January 7, 2011

African Yellow Daisies - photo by Mario Franco

The African yellow daisy produces a tiny black seed beloved by goldfinches, redpolls, and siskins. The daisy is grown commercially for its seeds in Nigeria, Ethiopia, India, Myanmar, and Nepal. It is so important to the wild bird feeding industry, that the trade association registered the name “nyjer” as a trademark so we would all know how to pronounce it. (Long “i” sound) First it was known as “niger” but nobody in the United States, the largest market for wild bird seed, knew for sure how to pronounce that.

Nyjer seeds - USDA Photo

The African yellow daisy does not grow well in North America and that is just as well: It would be an exotic and invasive plant here and who knows what kind of ecological mischief it might do. Moreover, many people confuse it with domestic thistle which is an easily spread weed that, left untended, can easily conquer entire fields of beneficial crops. And while goldfinches will eat the seeds of thistle, they prefer the much richer nyjer seeds.

Because it would be an invasive crop in North America – although some is found here, especially in the Northeast – it cannot be imported into the United States until toasted to a temperature of 250 degrees F for at least fifteen minutes, ensuring that the seeds are sterile. That, plus the costs of ocean shipping and import duties, means that nyjer is expensive bird seed. But, even after all that toasting, it remains a high-oil content seed (about 35% fat and 18% protein)and an excellent wintertime bird food for the birds who eat it. Around our house both the House finches and the sparrows also eat it.

Goldfinches and Pine Siskins Eating Nyjer

Because the seeds are so tiny, special feeders with very small openings are necessary. We use wire mesh feeders which also enable the goldfinches to eat upside down, something they like to do. Quail and doves will happily clean up anything that falls to the ground. Best of all, squirrels don’t bother with it. (“Nyjer? We don’t need no stinkin’ nyjer!”)

Until you’ve tried some in a feeder and attracted some birds, it is probably a good idea to start with a five-pound sack, but you can save money by buying it in larger quantities. It’s a good way to increase the bird varieties in your yards and on your balconies.

Interspecies Symphony

June 28, 2009

We haven’t forgotten you and will be back later this week.  In the meantime, the birds of our yard all seem to have fledglings and they are eating us out of house and home.

And, as you can see, no interspecies rivalries are allowed to interfere with feeding time.  This particular symphony began with a grosbeak playing the melody, the House Finches doing harmony, and the goldfinches on the flutes.

bird symphony (1 of 4)

Not for nothing are they called grosbeaks.

bird symphony (2 of 4)

The grosbeak was soon replaced by the Ladderback Woodpecker and the White-wing Dove.

bird symphony (4 of 4)

The Ladderback came back for a curtain call.  (The Hummingbirds were supposed to be playing the trumpets in the background but they were on strike at the time.)

bird symphony (3 of 4)

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