Find the Best Thistle Feeder for You

A thistle feeder is a must have for any backyard bird watcher.

Using a variety of bird feeders and bird food will attract the widest variety of wild bird species. Nyjer seed will attract some of the most beautiful songbirds. Birds like American Goldfinches, Redpolls and Siskins.

Nyjer seed can be put in most types of tube feeders, but it is best to use a specialized feeder called a thistle feeder or finch feeder. A finch feeder looks very much like a tube feeder, but has smaller holes at the feeding ports.

Goldfinches will have no trouble pulling out the tiny seeds, but birds less interested in nyjer seed will not be able to throw it out while looking for other types of seed.

You will find that nyjer seed is one of the more expensive types of seed, so you will want to reduce waste any way you can. But avoid the temptation to re-use the seed that falls onto the ground, it could be unhealthy for the birds to eat.

When making your selection, look for one that has a tight fitting lid and drainage in the bottom. Nyjer seed must be kept as dry as possible. If the seed stays wet for too long it can spoil. Good ventilation is another way to keep nyjer seed dry.

The style of thistle feeder that offers the best ventilation is the mesh thistle sack. There are many other reasons that this style of thistle feeder is so popular:

  • It is easy to fill
  • Easy to hang
  • Can hold several pounds of nyjer seed
  • Is very inexpensive

Finches are very social and will come to your feeders in large groups. This also makes the thistle sack a good choice since many birds are able to feed at the same time. They will cling right onto the soft but durable nylon bag to feed. Just imagine seeing 10 or more male Goldfinches feeding together, a birder's dream!

When selecting a thistle sack it is important to have a weave that is not too loose or too tight. Very inexpensive sacks may have a very loose weave, which allows seed to spill out with every movement of the feeder, wasting seed.

Birds will prefer a looser weave since they like to eat with the minimum amount of effort, but they may not be the best choice for you. If you consider the price of nyjer seed, money saved when purchasing the less efficient thistle sack will be lost in the first few weeks through spillage of the expensive seed.

If you are having problems with house finches or house sparrows crowding out your Goldfinches or Redpolls, then a new style of finch feeder may be what you are looking for. The new feeder is called the "upside down" thistle feeder.

The concept is simple. If you watch your thistle sack you will notice that Goldfinches, while clinging to the nylon sack, will feed in many positions including upside down. The house sparrows and house finches seem to prefer feeding while upright. So the holes in the upside down finch feeder are below the perches.

I tried this new thistle feeder recently with good success. The Goldfinches took to it right away, but the house finches, which normally visit my finch feeders, seemed quite confused. It is also entertaining to watch the Goldfinches hang upside down while they eat.

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