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brit5467

Question about new thistle feeder location???

brit5467
12 years ago

On Friday, I bought a thistle feeder & goldfinch thistle seed to try and attract new birds for the weekend bird count. But have only seen a couple birds feeding from it. The chickadee checked it out and may have taken seed (not sure) and also a house finch. But both of them arenÂt new. I get chickadees all the time and the finch comes periodically.

Somebody IS eating from it, because about 1/4" is gone since I put it up Friday nite, but thatÂs not much considering itÂs been up for 4 days now.

Just so youÂll know my setup, I already have two seed feeders on a 4-way Sheppard's hook in my front garden and hung it on that. Have birdbath.

I get morning doves, sparrows, cardinals, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmouses, dark-eyed juncos, downy woodpeckers, bluejays & catbirds. And of course the cow birds, starlings, grackles, blackbirds & pigeons who come in flocks here and there.

Am wondering if I have it in the wrong place? Like if maybe some of the other species are scaring away the finches? Or if it will just take time for new birds to figure out itÂs there?

Any suggestions will be appreciated !!

Thanks,

Bonnie aka brit5467

Comments (24)

  • chickadeemelrose
    12 years ago

    Hi brit5467,

    I also have a finch feeder with nyger seed in it, on a four-way shepherd's pole off our deck. The goldfinches are using it, but it did take awhile for them to make it a habit. I have noted that several people on this forum have said it takes awhile for birds to notice and try a new feeder.

    Now I get up to 8 goldfinches on this feeder at a time, but it did take time for that to happen. Occasionally I also see chickadees use it too.

    If you wait awhile and you don't have any luck with the feeder where it is, try placing the feeder in its own area away from the other feeders. I did that this past summer with one of those special "upside down" feeders, and the goldfinches loved it and were pretty much the only ones to use it. Just a suggestion.

    Good luck!

  • jannd
    12 years ago

    Hi Bonnie,

    Just give it a little more time. I have a tube feeder and suet feeder on shepherd's hooks and added a sock thistle feeder on another shepherd's hook that it took the goldfinches a couple of weeks to really discover. Now I've got so many I went and bought another sock feeder. I routinely have 10-12 American goldfinches and lesser goldfinches on each feeder sock daily now. It's unreal how fast they devour the nyjer seed. I'm filling mine every other day now. Just be patient. (All these feeders are within 5 feet of one another, by the way, in a very small clear area of the garden near a large shrub and a corner tree; water is also available in a saucer sitting on a garden bench a yard away.)

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  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Thanks guys !!! That's the reassurance I needed. Just give 'em time, huh? I can't WAIT to see other kinds of finches !! What I'm going to love about it is that all the greedy birds (starlings, blackbirds, etc.) can't eat from it. Ha ha ha to them. I love all creatures but those guys can really eat you out of house & home !! :)

    BTW, any suggestions as to where to buy the thistle CHEAP?? I bought the feeder on a whim since I was at Big Lots buying this special seed that has berries & nuts in it which is what had attracted the woodpecker and titmouse and more chickadees (and squirrels, which I never had a problem with before).

    But they had a pkg. of two tube feeders (one reg. & one for thistle) for only $6 which I thought was a real bargain. But then when I went back to the seed section to see if they had thistle, it was $10 for a 5 lb. bag !!! What a shock.

    I know we probably have a feed store around here like people talk about (to buy in bulk) but I don't think it's close, nor do I really have anywhere to store bulk seed (I live in a beach cottage with very little storage space). Didn't know if there are any other stores you could suggest? I usually get my seed at Ace Hardware and don't think the thistle is any cheaper there.

    Thanks again,
    bonnie aka brit5467

  • chickadeemelrose
    12 years ago

    I feel your pain!! I once changed to a finch mix to avoid the sticker shock of nyjer, but it turned out not to be worth it. The little seeds mixed in weren't all eaten, and the birds didn't like it anywhere nearly as much as the nyjer.

    I think your ACE price may be the best one for that size bag. Actually, $10 for 5 lbs. isn't bad around here (Boston area).

  • jannd
    12 years ago

    So, I'm not the only one to discover that thistle seed is the price of gold, I see. No matter where I look, it seems to be about $2.00/lb. There's only a slight price break in the 20-lb bag also, not enough to make it worthwhile when I consider storage space. I don't live in an area with feed stores, so I haven't checked those prices for comparison, but I think there's probably not much economy to be had. I'm justifying it in my mind by saying that it's the price I pay for so much enjoyment -- because I do love seeing all of them mobbing the feeders. It's probably silly, but when I think about how hard they must work to find their daily meals elsewhere, it makes me feel happy helping them out. That helps a bit!

    Jann

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Once again, tks guys !! Now I don't feel like I'm overpaying and won't go on a massive "search" for the cheapest price.

    Chickadee, glad you told me that. I won't waste good money on the cheaper seed. And Jann, I'm like you. I'd hate to add up what all I spend on "my birds" over the years but I, too, justify it with the fact that they ARE so enjoyable. Also, I just consider it my hobby. People spend money on green fees, lift tickets, crafting materials, etc. WellÂ.I spend mine on birdfeed !!!!

    And it DOES feel good knowing you're helping the little guys out. Esp. like during our big snow storm (the East Coast biggie) a couple weeks ago. I awoke to find the poor doves all huddled up on my front porch. There was even a cardinal. They NEVER come on the porch but guess they needed shelter. It was almost as tho they were shivering, all puffed up and all. They arenÂt used to snow around here.

    I felt so sorry for them, I put out some trays of seeds and hot water (my BR window looks right out onto the porch) and spent the most of the day laying in my bed watching them. It was so neat since they were only a couple feet away !! Even the juncos were on the porch and I rarely even see them by the feeders. I got to see several cardinals that day, both male and female. I guess I had about 5 different kinds of birds on my porch. I even got my binoculars out. WOW !! What a treat to watch the cardinal's beak crack open a sunflower seed !!

    But I've started a bad thing because it's become really a mess out there, if you know what I mean :) I'll have to wean them off the trays once it gets warmer. Can't be sitting out there with bird poop all over the place...ha ha ha. Plus, the squirrels are getting a bit too comfortable with the whole set up :)

    Bonnie aka brit5467

  • paulsiu
    12 years ago

    During the summer, I put up a nyjer seed sock. No takers at all.

    This winter, I put up a Mr. Finch feeder. To my surprise, it emptied within a day. It turns out that there are a lot of gold finches in the area. It's just that they don't prefer the food from the feeder. Now that food supply are scarce, they show up in large numbers. I estimate they eat about 1 lb a day. More when the weather is bad.

    I eventually replace the sock feeder with a giant tube feeder. The finches love the sock but somebody keeps putting holes in it (probably the squirrel). I also installed a tray feeder underneath the tube feeder and filled it with nyjer seed. Both are in the middle of a thicket and so provide them with a lot of protection from the hawk (can't reach in that far). The same feeder also attracts several species of new world sparrows and Junco's.

    As for seeds, check around for feed stores. My supermarket were selling them at $5 per 2 lbs. I managed to locate a feed store that sells them at $1.19 per pound. I got them for even less if I buy in bulk. With 50 lbs, this should last about 2 months or so. The seed doesn't spoil in this chilly weather. On the plus side, squirrels hate nyjer seed so the birds get to eat it all.

    Paul

  • lazypup
    12 years ago

    Quite often "Nyger seed" is improperly called "Thistle Seed" and as a result many people are perplexed as to why the seed of a common weed should cost so much, but in fact, Nyger Seed is Not thistle seed.

    Nyger is a noxious weed plant native to South Africa which happens to produce a seed very similar to the thistle seed.

    There is a grave concern that if Nyger Seed was introduced into our environment it would soon take over as an undesirable noxious weed in the same manner that Kudzu did a decade or two ago.

    Nyger is relatively easy to produce in commercial bulk quantities in its native sought Africa, and it remains one of the most desirable seeds for feeding finches, therefore our government permits importing Nyger on the condition that all seed will be heat treated prior to retail marketing to insure it will not germinate in our environment, therefore it is not the cost of the seed but rather the cost of transportation and heat treating that causes the price to remain high.

  • chris8796
    12 years ago

    I would with the others to leave it out there, they will come. For me, the exciting part of finches is not the locals, its the migratory birds. They fly at night when the winds are favorable, so you can get large groups stopping by. Last year, I had 50+ golden finches stop by at one time. During this period, you'll notice one bird will attract others and the migrators to the area. Some people will even put out yellow ribbons to get the passerbys to come for a closer look.

    Another trick is to plant plants they enjoy and let them go to seed. They love black-eyed Susan seeds, which look like Nyger. Last year I planted sunflowers (using bird seed) and left them in the garden. The Golden Finches had them picked clean in October.

  • donald lucius
    12 years ago

    here there are a wild type sunflower that grows along county roads and bar ditches on heads on a bushy plant 3 or 4 foot tall. in the fall they are mobbed by the finches
    and they will go there instead of feeders. Zinnias are another way to attrach the finches. I see people walking along county roads or edges of farm fields collecting the wild sunflower seeds and spreading the along fence lines in their yards in the late fall so the sprout in early spring. they buy up zinnia seed and plant
    them too

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Lazypup, that makes sense now about the expense. I checked my bag and although it IS called "Morning Song" Goldfinch Thistle Seed (wild bird food), the ingredients say "Guizotia abyssinica" / niger" Guess they spell nyger differently?

    Paul, my neighbor gave me a 'sock' last year and I had the same problem....no birds but holes in it. Of course, I'd hung it on a tree in the side yard, not realizing the easy access for squirrels. Eventually, it got moldy and I threw it away.

    Chris, I can't wait to see if that happens. I'd love to see a flock of ANYTHING new !!! Unfortunately, since my garden is more a 'cottage style' and right in front of my house, sunflowers are just a bit too tall for my taste. But I'll try them out back in the "messy" free-for-all garden. Plus, I've seen some dwarf types advertised. Maybe I'll check into those.

    DK, I didn't know that about zinnias. I've never had much luck with them. They always get some sort of powdery mildew on their stems and leaves and grow all crooked and wiggly-looking. But I'm wintersowing some from seed this year, so we'll see how they do. Thanks for the tip !!

    PS to all -- haven't been actually watching feeder, but DO see that more seed is gone now. So someone's enjoying it.

    bonnie aka brit5467

  • chris8796
    12 years ago

    The sunflower seeds I planted only grew about 2'-2.5' tall, and had 3-4 heads per stalk. They were the large stripped ones in bird seed. It must be the commercial growers cultivar since they weren't the standard 5-6' ones you use to see.

    Here are some finches polishing off my black-eyed Susans last fall.

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Ohhh COOL !! They are so pretty. What kind of finches are they?

    Those must be the kind of plants I'm talking about - the shorter ones. So the seeds came from the birdfeed? Hmmm..now I'm wondering if last year when I was ripping out stalks of corn & other crap under my feeder if I was also pulling up those shorter ones?

    I know the guy I was with at the time was upset, saying they were sunflowers and wanted to let them grow but I didn't, not wanting (as you said) 5'-6' plants in the very front. Darn !!! And they WERE the striped seeds, TOO !! I guess this year I'll just let them grow and see what happens !! Glad you told me that !!!

    Although I think my sunflower seeds are black now. He was buying different food at the time with the cracked corn in it. Do you think you could just go buy a pkg. of the kind you eat (unsalted) and just plant THEM? LOL

    bonnie

  • chris8796
    12 years ago

    They are the common American Goldfinch in their non-breeding plumage. They are the bright yellow ones in the summer.

    I don't know about the sunflowers you eat, but it is easy enough to try.

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    This message board is goofing up again, I guess. My response kept getting rejected, saying I'd already posted a reply. I know that's the case when you've posted and then try posting again, back to back but I had not done that???

    So I just changed the 'subject' a bit. But wanted to say....

    Ahhh ha....so that's why I didn't know. My book only shows them in summer, bright yellow. I actually think they're more more unique in your pic. Great pic, BTW.

    bonnie

  • lazypup
    12 years ago

    brit5467

    You are correct, according to the article in my bird book the proper spelling is "niger" however there is a strong concern that people would miss pronounce it as the socially taboo "N" word so they have agreed to call it Nyger seed in the U.S.A.

    My main feeders are hung on a tree about 60ft from the house but I wanted a feeder a bit closer to get better photos. I didn't have anything to hang the new feeders on but we had an old light tubing garment hanging rack in the basement which I set in the yard and hung both the niger feeder and a tube type seed feeder. I also attached a small plastic bucket lid to the top as a tray feeder. I commonly have Titmice, Chicadee's, sparrows and even cardinals and blue jays on both the top tray feeder and the tube type seed feeder and have finches on the nyger feeder at the same time. The two feeders are only about 2 ft apart. I also get a large number of blue Jays, Cardinals, Doves, Juncos and sparrows on the ground under these feeders.

    Here are a couple of my favorite American Goldfinch pictures I took at my niger feeder.

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    LazypupÂ.I hadda laugh!! I thought that very same thing when I was typing the word. Ooops, I saidÂ."Am I gonna be "socially unacceptable" ??? Thanks for the chuckle, even tho you probably didnÂt mean it

    What is a Âlight tubing garment hanging rack" ??? I was hoping your pics would show it. I was also hoping to see where you "attached a small plastic bucket lid to the top as a tray feeder" only because I know, from following you on the downy/hairy woodpecker thread that you have some wonderful pics! You are a great photographer!!

    Do you not have problems with attracting unwanted birds (starlings, grackles, etc.) when you have seed so exposed on tray type feeders? I havenÂt tried one on my feeders, but if youÂve followed this thread, youÂll know that IÂve put trays on my porch and I didnÂt mention it, but along with all the desired birds I now have visiting, I get more starlings than IÂd like. They are mean and run off the little ones. AND make pigs out of themselves.

    PS - I see (from other posts) that you are in a similar situation as myself (aside from being a great photographer - NOT me :) so feel free to E me privately to chat more in depth if you are so inclined. I'd enjoy it, I'm sure :)

    bonnie

  • terrene
    12 years ago

    I don't feed Nyjer but the Goldfinches seem to like the Black oil sunflower seed a lot. I use a small tube feeder, which has small perches and holes and only allows small birds. You can purchase a caged tube feeder that only allows small birds through the cage. I also use a small tray but the Starlings prefer suet - and fortunately I only get 1 or 2 Starlings at the feeders.

    Goldfinches are one of the easiest birds to attract in the gardens - they eat lots of the dried seed heads. Rudbeckia (nice pic Chris), Echinacea, Monarda, Silphium, Helianthus (perennial and annual Sunflower), etc. and they like a lot of annual seeds.

    One year a bunch of the Black oil sunflower seeds from the feeder sprouted and I let them grow - the Goldfinches loved these! As did the Chickadees and some type of Warbler. I also save some Echinacea seedheads in the fall and tape a bunch of those to the feeder pole throughout the winter, which quickly attracts Goldfinches. Here's one of the little guys -

  • brit5467
    Original Author
    12 years ago

    Great PIC Terrene !! Hopefully one day IÂll get to see the same!!

    WellÂI do already have the black sunflower seeds within my feed but no luck with the finches. And I tried the suet. It DID attract the downy woodpecker, but it also drew MANY Starlings. So I moved it but it just drew more "piggish" birds than ones you want.

    I guess itÂs trial and error, finding the right spot. IÂve got everything so close together so I guess IÂm just asking for trouble.

    I DO have the caged feeders. Not sure if theyÂre like your caged "tube feeders" but they are tubed with cages around them. But unfortunately, when I bought them as gifts for my ex, he wasnÂt patient enough to let the birds come in their own time. Thought they were scared of going inside the cage so he clipped off some of wires to make more room for them to go inside. Which they did.

    And that was all fine and good but now it allows the bigger birds to pig out. Plus the squirrels have figured it out. IÂm very tempted to just order two more of identical feeders (since theyÂre used to them) and think it will help control the whole situation, as they were designed to do.

    You are VERY fortunate to only get a couple starlings. I have a routine for all my birds. And at one point - morning, noon, and night - they (the starlings, grackles, blackbirds & even pigeons) are there, 10 to 20 of them just gorging themselves. Pigeons on the ground, but the rest at the feeders, running off the little ones.

    IÂve got some of the seeds youÂve mentioned (Echinacea & Rudbeckia ) to grow this summer so that will be nice. I had some Yarrow growing but it got so crazy I pulled most of it out. DonÂt know if anyone likes that seed, but it sure does have a seed head !!

  • lazypup
    12 years ago

    brit5467

    Right now I have the camera set up with a 500mm lens to get some dawn pictures of the birds on my main feeder. The coat rack is only 10 feet from my window and the minimum focus distance for the 500mm is 33ft so I can't get a pic for you at this time. I will be changing lenses and going outside about noon so I will get you a pic then and email it to you.

    My other concern is that there is 24" of snow on the ground under the nyger feeder so you would not be able to see the base of the garment rack. In the mean time I have made an illustration of how it is set up. I hope this will help.

    In regards to undesirable birds, to be honest, i really don't have any undesirable birds because all of God's creatures have to eat.

    I find that by keeping all of my feeders full and sprinkling excess seed, stale bread, egg shells, cooked oatmeal, a baked potato or two and a few table scraps on the ground and there is always something for everybody so I don't see a lot of competition at the feeders. On the other hand, I will admit that I am currently going through about 100 to 150lbs of bird seed and 6 to 10 suet cakes a month but in exchange I am getting about 300 to 500 photos a day of not only the birds but a super fat squirrel, two chipmonk's, three rabbits and occasionally a few turkeys when the snow is not too deep for them.

    For the record, that garment rack is too flimsy for its intended purpose and we were about to set it out for the trash when I got the idea to try is for the bird feeders.

    P.S. I will take you up on your invitation to email and I would invite others to email me as well.

  • terrene
    12 years ago

    Brit, you can purchase just the cage by itself if you are interested in a replacement. Perhaps you could buy some wire of the same guage and replace the wire that your ex cut off?

    Also, have you considered an upside-down suet feeder - the woodpeckers and others can eat from this, but supposedly the Starlings cannot?

    Yes I am lucky to only get a few Starlings and House Sparrows. But a couple years ago, there were none and there are seem to be a few more each year. Last summer I had Bluebirds nesting in a snag in the backyard, so I stopped feeding the birds, except for BOSS in the tube feeder. That way, there was no food for the House Sparrows, and they pretty much left the yard and did not bother the Bluebirds. the Bluebirds were fine, because they feed their young insects anyway. A couple times a day, I would bring out a few suet crumbles for the Bluebirds and tap on the tray and they would come right away to get a treat! :)

    Frankly, if I had a mob of Starlings I would be thinking about a .22 with bird shot! (Can't do that where I live though.)

  • chickadeemelrose
    12 years ago

    Hi,

    On the subject of letting smaller birds in and keeping large birds out of a feeder - maybe what I have done with my feeders would be helpful. I posted this on January 3rd, 2010 - something like "idea with sparrows still working," and it IS still working.

    I had a brand new caged feeder designed for the goldfinches, chickadees, etc., but right away the house sparrows were getting in and taking over. Now, I wouldn't have a problem with feeding the house sparrows too, but they take over the feeders, and they make a mess. I figure they are assertive enough to get whatever food they need someplace other than my little feeders, so I am glad to have a means to keep them out.

    Anyway, I have done the wire and bead thing to every one of my feeders except the suet ones (I even added them to my peanut feeder). They have worked really well and have not kept any birds away other than the sparrows.

    To add to what Lazypup has said about feeding all the birds, I did put up a tube feeder with an open tray for the last snowstorm. The house sparrows do congregate there, but they leave the feeders protected by the wires alone. I guess there is no competition there, so it works. Also, cardinals started visiting that tray. So some of this is trial and error.

    Good luck and if you have any questions about this "wire and bead thing" I do with the feeders just ask.

    Donna

  • bob414
    12 years ago

    It doesn't take them long to go through a feeder full of thistle at my place.

    {{!gwi}}

  • lazypup
    12 years ago

    Bob, Great Shot, glad to see some of your finches are already molting to their summer breeding plumage, that means spring is coming,,,Hurrah!!

    Fortunately we got a nice sunny 35degF day today so I was able to get a shot from my bedroom window showing my whole feeder setup.

    The first shot is looking east from my bedroom window. In this shot you can see my seed hopper and suet feeders on the Maple tree, which is 60ft from my camera position. This location is working very well because many of the birds roost in the Maple tree during the day. Although you can barely see it in the photo about 20ft to the right of the Hopper there is a 65ft high pine tree that affords great cover for the smaller birds. Ten feet to the left of the Maple tree there is a small Butternut tree that is a favorite roosting place for the Morning Doves. I generally see upwards of 35 doves in that tree each morning. Another 15 ft to the left is a second 60ft Pine tree and behind the feeder sight you can see an 18 acres open meadow. You can see the woods are the far side of the meadow. That woods extends for about a square mile and it is mostly old stand hardwoods. Across the road to the left of this photo is another 300 acre hardwood stand, some new growth near the road, but old stand hardwoods from about 100 feet off the road.

    In the foreground to the left you can see my old garment hanger with the Niger & mixed seed tubes. On the left end on top you can see the plastic bucket lid that I use for a platform feeder.

    From my vantage point I generally use a 300mm lens to shoot birds on the hopper, suet feeder or on the ground below the hopper, while I use a 200mm to shoot close ups of the birds on the garment rack feeders.

    As you can see, all the birds at my feeders seem to play nice and I see very little competition.

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