The Ultimate Guide to Using Niger Seed as Bird Food

Peter McNish

Ultimate guide to niger seed

Why Use Niger Bird Food?

Niger seed is a firm favourite for wild birds, but what do we actually know about this small and exotic seed? If you’re new to this type of premium bird food, we’ve put together the ultimate guide to this seed and look at why you should start using niger bird food in your garden. Read on to learn more

Niger or nyjer - What's the Difference?

To be honest, no one has really agreed on what the correct term is. Niger, nijer, nyjer or thistle seed are the main variations, but it doesn’t really matter which one you use. For the sake of continuity, we will be using niger in this guide.

Where does niger seed come from?

The niger plant picture below shows the plant that the niger seed grows into, and where the seeds are harvested from.

Niger seed actually comes from the Ethiopian highlands. It’s also located in other parts of Africa such as Malawi. Commercially, it is produced in Nigeria, Ethiopia, also stretching all the way to southeast Asia and India.

What is niger seed?

This tiny, fine seed is black in colour but usually sprouts into a yellow coloured flower. Guizotia abyssinica is the scientific name and it is often mistaken for a thistle, which it isn’t. The confusion might stem from the fact that finches are particularly fond of both thistle seed and niger seed.


Niger seed for birds

Niger Seed



Before it’s exported, the seed has to be treated and sterilised with high temperatures to prevent germination and the sprouting of any flowers in your garden, which may harm other native plants.

Other than bird feed, niger seed can be used for human consumption. You won’t be using it in the same way as our feathered friends do though. You will find the oil and the seed in recipes for curries, chutneys and other foods. Niger seed also offers plenty of medical uses.

Niger seed nutrition

 Niger Seed Nutrition (per 100g)
Calories 515
Fat 39g
Sodium 0mg
Potassium 0mg
Sugar 0g
Fiber 11g
Protein 24g
Vitamin A 0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 300%
Iron 57%


How to use niger seed for birds

Because niger seed is rich in oil and high in nutrition, it makes it an outstanding food for garden birds all year round. It’s even better used as winter bird food as it will give garden birds an extra calorie hit that will help them store fat to keep them warm. The high protein count will help with the regeneration of feathers when moulting throughout the year.

Which birds eat niger seed?

Smaller seed-eating birds like Finches and Sparrows have developed into experts at eating tiny seeds such as niger. These species have smaller pointed and sharp beaks, ideal for cracking open the shells of the niger seed.

These smaller birds are acrobatic when they feed from a niger seed feeder, often seen feeding from them upside down. This type of conditioning is great practice for the wild, where they will have to use these acrobatic skills to feed on their own.

Be wary though, this will also encourage big bully birds like pigeons who will scour the floor for any niger seed that has fallen. Using a seed tray attached to the bottom of the feeder will prevent this loss to the floor and deter the bigger birds hoping to steal some seed.

bird nut feeder droll yankee

Droll Yankees Nut Feeder 300mm


These are some the types of birds that eat niger seed that you’ll be able to attract to your garden:

  •        Sparrows

  •        Siskins

  •        Finches

  •        Redpolls

  •        Pigeons

  •        Doves

Shop premium bird food in our store

Along with niger seed, we also stock a wide range of high-quality and affordable bird food products in our online store. Regardless of whether you want to buy bulk bird food, or you’re looking to test the waters with a small amount, our collection has a wide range of options to keep your garden birds happy!
Click here to buy bird food on our site.

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  • Dee on

    Need help. I placed alitttle nyjer seed in a small dish and placed it on my patio table….first time user so seeing with anything will feed. Next day I take a look and yes some bird is feeding…..hey. But the next day there are no seeds left in the tray and left are what look like oval pellets of chewed up seed…… I’m thinking it’s the squirrels……but they have their own food at other need of the yard. Do you think it’s the demon squirrels. Also is a tube feeder better. Thanks….the neighborhood crazy bird lady.

  • Bob Clark on

    I have some niger seeds in a specialist seed feeder but although the birds feed on sunflower seeds and fat balls they are ignoring the niger seeds. What am I doing wrong ?

  • Kennedy Wild Bird Food on

    Hi Charles,

    Apologies for the delay in replying. Although it’s not an ideal thing scenario, we can recommend using a few small drops sunflower oil in the palm of your hand and rubbing them over handfuls of niger seed at a time. This should have the birds coming back.

  • Charles Grimsley on

    Is there any way to re-oil Nyjer seed that has dried out and what kind of oil would one use?


  • Bob Vigar on

    My feeder dropped off in high winds and the seeds took root. I had to dig up that part of the lawn up, reseed and cover on soil. The growth was so prolific tht the roots lifted the lawn and looked like a small grave!

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