Chuck in Nevada told me how he keeps goldfinches coming to his back yard. “I go down to the Tractor Supply and get 25 pounds of Nyjer seed, and I can hardly keep the feeder filled. The goldfinches are all over it!” I had heard about this phenomenon closer to home, too, so before I left town I stopped and bought my own 25-pound bag, as well as a feeder to put it in.
I waited for the heavy rains to stop before I hung it, and within a couple of days the finches arrived. First goldfinches, then house finches. The house finch couple made brief visits, too quick for my camera. After a snack, they would stop at the top of the fountain for a sip of water before flying up to the Dr. Seuss redwood tree behind my garden, where I spied on them with binoculars. I wondered if they were nesting there, but that was a week ago and I haven’t seen them since.
The pair of goldfinches are regular patrons. So far they haven’t brought hordes of family and friends, so my feeder hasn’t needed refilling yet. But I’m ready!
Nyjer or Niger seed originates in Ethiopia. A commenter on Dave’s Garden site wrote about it, “In Ethiopia, it is cultivated on water-logged soils where most crops and all other oil-seeds fail to grow, and contributes a great deal to soil conservation and land rehabilitation. Niger is cultivated primarily for valuable oil which is used in foods, paints, soaps, and as a illuminant. The seeds can be used for human consumption, fried, or as a condiment.”
It doesn’t sound like something that would do well here in my yard, but if any seed did manage to sprout and flourish under my feeder, I would end up with a flower like this:
Guizotia abyssinica is not a thistle at all, though it’s often called “Nyjer thistle seed,” and it’s technically not a seed either, but a fruit, says Wikipedia. It is now grown commercially in the U.S.; when I was looking for a photo I found this etsy seller who sells it in packets.
I’m pretty pleased about my goldfinch friends who are enjoying the Nyjer. But the next letter of the alphabet will reveal even more exotic avian developments. I can hardly wait to show you!