Birds And Niger Seed
Niger seed comes from the African yellow daisy, Guizotia abyssinica, which is an annual herb grown not only for its seed but also its edible oil. It was cultivated in Ethiopia but is now found growing in other parts of Africa, as well as India, Nepal, and Myanmar, where it is used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes.
Niger seed is technically a dry single-seeded fruit called an achene, and is known by a variety of different names including nyger, ramtil, inga, and black seed. It is also sometimes referred to as thistle seed although this is incorrect as the plant is not a thistle. The name came about because when the seed was initially marketed as bird food, companies took advantage of finches’ natural love of teasel and thistle seeds.
Niger seed has been used for many years in North America as a bird food, particularly for goldfinches. It is rich in oils and other nutrients essential for birds and is high in calories.
Niger Seed Nutrition (per 100g)
By putting out niger seed you will attract a wide variety of birds to your garden. Its popularity has now spread to Europe and you can buy special feeders with fine holes in them to enable you to offer it to garden birds.
Niger is a lot finer than other types of bird seed so you will need a special niger feeder which is usually made of mesh to hold the seed. Buy one with a number of perches on it and if you’re lucky you will see a whole flock of finches at it.
When putting out niger seed or any bird food make sure it is available at peak feeding time such as dawn and dusk. Keep all bird feeders away from predators such as cats and make sure the feeding stations are kept clean to prevent the spread of disease. As with all bird food store it in a cool, dry place and ensure that you use it up before the sell-by date.
Niger seed can be quite expensive as it is imported and must also be sterilized to prevent the seed being introduced as an invasive species. As well as being used to feed birds, niger seeds are used in southern India to make a dry chutney or as a spice in some curries.