Why Use Niger Seeds as Bird Food?

Niger seeds are 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 it 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 it come from?

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

It 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 are niger seeds?

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 nyjer seed.

Niger seed for birds 


 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, this 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 it 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 it?

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


Seed tray
  • 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!