Niger seed is a thin, tiny black seed that comes from the African yellow daisy Guizotiaabyssinica and is widely known to attract beautiful finches. The name Niger is thought to derive from a mistaken belief that its place of origin was Nigeria, though in fact much of the world’s Niger supply comes from Ethiopia, India, and the surrounding areas. In an effort to be politically correct and hopefully reduce potential mispronunciation, The Wild Bird Feeding Industry began using the different spelling of Nyjer ® in 1998. So, Niger and Nyjer are just alternate spellings of the exact same seed.
Thistle seed is something altogether different. Niger seed is often confused with our native Thistle plant due to the similar look of the seeds and by the fact that goldfinches love to eat both of them, but in actuality the two plants are not even related. While everyone has seen the purple tufted flowers of the Thistle plant growing along roadsides and fields through the U.S., not everyone knows that Thistle is illegal to grow, harvest, and sell in the U.S. because it is considered a noxious weed. Anytime you see a bag of seed labeled “Thistle” on a store shelf, it is not really Thistle. It is Niger seed.
Had a bunch of birds on your feeder and now they’ve all disappeared? Could be the result of a few different things:
First, time of year – it is very common for feeder visits to significantly decrease in the fall. Why? Because by the end of summer and beginning of fall, plant berries are in full bloom and insects are very abundant. There is so much natural food available in the fall that there is little need to visit a feeder. Additionally, there are numerically less birds in the fall. Nearly two-thirds of all baby chicks hatched in the spring and summer don’t live to see the glory of autumn’s changing colors. So, sadly, most of those cute little babies you saw crowding your feeders in the summer can’t be counted on to become full time residents. Fall migration patterns also contribute to the seasonal decrease of birds in your backyard. It could be that you had a large population of birds that nest and breed in your area, but winter in the sunny wilderness of South America.
Second, it is not uncommon for your backyard buddies to become confused if you change your birdseed or feeder. It could take a few days up to a couple of weeks (no lie!) for the birds to recognize the new seed or feeder as a viable food source. Most beautiful songbirds are very visual and any change to a feeder’s looks or contents can temporarily befuddle them. Once they get past the change and try it out, you will see a return to your previous status quo.
Third, it could be you’ve got a new predator in the area. Young hawks are constantly moving into new territories and just maybe one found your little outdoor bird café to be something akin to a fast food diner. While he’s around, your once abundant friends are likely to stay hidden away until he moves on to greener pastures. Same goes for outdoor cats. If one of your neighbors has brought home a new kitty, it could have already discovered that your back yard is the perfect place to pick up a little something feathery or furry for “mommy” back home.
If you or your child are allergic to peanuts, please be aware that all our products are processed and packaged with one single source of equipment. So even if the Cole’s product you buy does not contain peanuts, it was processed with the same equipment as products that do contain peanuts.
Cole’s is committed to keeping all our ingredients as close to a natural state as possible. That means we do not “wash” our seeds with chemicals or add pesticides during storage and packaging to prevent insect infestations. In fact, Harvest Fresh LockTM, our nitrogen-purged barrier packaging system enables us to guarantee a pest-free product naturally.
We do all that because it is very difficult to find certified organic growers who can consistently supply enough high quality ingredients for wild bird feed. If you have concerns regarding non-organic wild bird feed, we suggest reading a Science Daily article from 2010 covering a study done by Newcastle University. The study summary states:
“The nutritional benefits of organic food have been called into question by new research which shows wild garden birds prefer conventional seed to that which has been organically-grown. A three-year study by Newcastle University has found that wild birds are not swayed by the organic label, but instead prefer the more protein-rich, conventional food that will help them to survive the winter.”
No matter whether your birdseed is organic or not, the fact is that feeder foraging only accounts for about 25% of a wild bird’s diet. They still get the bulk of their nutritional needs from good ‘ol Mother Nature.
Cole’s uses a unique packing system that allows us to pack and distribute our wonderful products without adding pesticides or chemicals. We call it Harvest Fresh LockTM and it is a system usually reserved for human food. Even though it costs more to do it this way, Cole’s believes it is the best, safest, and most natural way to provide for our feathered friends.
Not only is it better for the birds, it’s better for the seeds too. With Harvest Fresh LockTM, our seeds don’t lose nutritional content or dry out and spoil like other brands. Without this special technology, seeds are exposed to oxygen causing immediate degradation, but Cole’s products stay as fresh as the day they were packed. Guaranteed!
While it is true that poor nutrition negatively impacts a wild bird’s lifespan, adding vitamins and minerals to wild bird feed does little to help your feathered friends. Companies that tout “vitamin fortified” bird seed neglect to mention that the vitamins are only sprayed on the hull, or shell, of the seed and do not penetrate into the seed itself. So, once a bird cracks open and discards the shell, any potential for increased nutritional benefit is lost.
Additionally, many of those added vitamins are synthetically made instead of naturally sourced.
Finally, as mentioned in one of the other answers, feeder foraging only accounts for at most 25% of a wild bird’s diet. They still get roughly 75% of all their nutritional needs from everything else that they eat in the wild. There is no scientific proof that “fortifying” the little bit of food scavenged from backyard feeders does anything at all to increase a wild bird’s lifespan.