I first saw Nyjer-filled socks at Wal Mart a few months ago, but was somewhat skeptical about them. On a shopping trip a few weeks later, I decided to purchase one as a "treat" for our goldfinches. The sock hung on its hook for a couple of days without being touched. The birds were apparently more skeptical than I was. They had bird feeders and wooden ledges filled with plenty of seeds to their liking...so what is this peculiar looking thing?
They finally became curious enough to check it out. Before long, there were several goldfinches clinging to it, picking seeds from the tiny holes in the nylon net. Soon the birds were fighting to gain their spot on the sock. I've seen up to a dozen or so of them hanging from it at one time. They love it!
Nyjer is the seed of an African yellow daisy. The plant originated in Nigeria and is known there as "Niger". Many backyard birders also call the seed thistle, but Nyjer is not related to thistle plants or seeds. It is believed that calling the seed thistle may have become popular because goldfinches, which adore Nyjer, also feed on thistle and use thistle down to construct their nests. Before it is imported, Nyjer seed is sterilized by intense heat to prevent germination of any additional seeds that may be part of the mix. Nyjer is a popular birdseed because after sterilization it will not sprout if spilled and because it is an exceptional energy source for backyard birds.
Nyjer is a type of oilseed containing approximately 35% fat, 18% protein and 18% fiber. Therefore, it makes an excellent winter bird food, when birds require foods with more oil and a higher calorie content so they can store fat to survive colder temperatures. The protein in Nyjer is also useful for regenerating feathers when birds molt in the late fall and early spring. Had I known this, I would have bought Nyjer sooner for my little feathered friends.
A few more bird species enjoy Nyjer seed as well, including Mourning Doves, Buntings, House Finches, and Song sparrows. I sometimes mix a little Nyjer in with the other bird seed. I like to have a variety available for the birds- they all have their favorites. :)