Thistle seeds are an ideal wild bird food for several North American species. The species of birds that eat thistle seed include finches, juncos, and mourning doves, just to name a few. Thistle seeds are small and packed with nutrients, fat, and protein. The seeds are especially hearty for winter feeding. The best way to feed thistle seed is with a thistle seed feeder, a tube feeder, or a thistle sock. These feature very small holes through which the birds can extract the seeds. Thistle seed, sometimes called nyjer, is enjoyed by many species of wild birds, including sparrows, doves, quail, woodpeckers, thrushes, chickadees, and finches.
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Birds that eat thistle
Finches are one of the kinds of birds that like thistle seed. Finches may be tiny birds, averaging less than 6 inches tall, but they are big eaters of thistle seed. Those that particularly enjoy thistle are goldfinches, Cassin's finches, house and purple finches, pine siskins, and redpolls. Finches are squatty, colorful birds with short, stout beaks and a wide range of hues. Goldfinches, as their name suggests, are a dull gold and green color, with the males turning bright yellow to attract the females during mating season.
Cassin's finches and purple finches are similar, both with soft purple and red colorings. House finches feature bright reddish orange on their upper chests, shoulders, and heads. Pine siskins are one of the less colorful finches, with mottled brown patterns all over their bodies, and white and yellow marking on their wings. Redpolls, as you may guess, feature a bright red chest and cap, with brownish grey stripes and markings on the rest of their bodies.
Juncos and other sparrows
Juncos, which are a type of sparrow, are another prime consumer of thistle seed. Two types of thistle-loving Juncos include the dark-eyed Junco and the yellow-eyed Junco, both of which are medium-sized sparrows no more than 8 inches tall. The dark-eyed Junco has a pink bill, white belly, and a range of different regional colors of black, brown, and gray. Yellow-eyed Juncos are pale gray with a dark face and a sharp set of contrasting yellow eyes. Both have stubby, short beaks.
Juncos are ground-loving birds. They tend to search for fallen seed around the base of trees, or under a thistle seed feeder. Juncos have a high-pitched chip when singing, and they may look as if they haven't a care in the world while they forage for food along the ground. They will take flight by way of a quick hop up into a bush or tree. Juncos live in mixed-coniferous forests, mostly in North America.
Thistle seed feeder
Birds that like thistle seed include mourning doves. These birds are larger than sparrows and finches, about 12 inches tall, and are fairly dull in color. Their backs are a grayish brown, while their bellies and chest are brown with pink undertones. They have thin, black beaks and a small dot beneath their black eyes. Mourning doves (not "morning" doves!) make a familiar coo-coo-coo call, and like to stay on the ground looking for food. They will fly up when approached, and land on a telephone wire or tree to observe from a safe perch. Mourning doves somewhat resemble pigeons but they are smaller, and brown or light gray in color. A thistle seed feeder is ideal for Mourning doves because they like to stay closer to the ground when feeding.