Friday, June 03, 2005


I wonder if the goldfinches are as tired of the rain as I am.

Two male American goldfinches (Carduelis tristis), enjoying thistle seeds. Please excuse the state of the feeder - the wet hulls stick to it.

No, it's not the same kind of thistle that comes up in your yard. It's not really thistle at all, but it used to be called that, before they started calling it Niger. They later changed the spelling to Nyger. (The story I heard involved political correctness and poor spelling skills.) The botanical name is Guizotia abyssinica.

Finches (gold, purple, house, what have you) love these seeds. Pine siskins do too. Don't put them in a regular feeder - you'll need a special one (with smaller holes). We love Droll Yankee feeders. They last a lot longer.


Pablo said...

I was filling a backyard feeder with safflower seeds yesterday when the thing came apart on me. I was pouring a bucket of seeds into the opening at the top, and suddenly they camp spilling out the bottom of the feeder. It turns out the wood of the feeder (at least 10 years old) had grown soft with damp and rot, and the weight of the seeds finally pulled the screws out. I put a fresh screw in, but it was just gripping spongy wood, so I guess it's time for a replacement. My, one can spend a lot of cash on bird feeders!

happyandblue2 said...

How can you tell they are males..

Hick said...

That Niger comment reminds me of the guy that got fired for using the word "niggardly" during a meeting describing the budget he had to work with. (Shakes head at the state of our education.)

Rexroth's Daughter said...

American Goldfinches are so beautiful. They have just returned to our yard in the past few weeks. We didn't know about their preference for thistle seed, and will have to go out and buy some. Great advice about Droll Yankee feeders.

Ron Sullivan said...

We had a thistle-seed "sock" feeder -- a long mesh bag designed for the purpose, mesh just wide enough for thistle seed -- and the d@mned squirrels chewed a big hole in it. So we bought a nice Droll Yankee thistle tube and the double-d@mned squirrels chewed holes in THAT too, enlarged the little slits in the plastic tube. We use it anyway, as the leaks aren't too bad.

They're your squirrels too, dangit! Some jackass brought eastern fox squirrels, the red-bellied kind, out here and they pushed the less aggressive, more human-shy native grays out of urban and suburban places.

I do have recipes for Brunswick stew...

Oh, happyandblue2, make and female goldfinches look different; females are more cryptically colored. Everybody on Earth should own a field guide.

Rurality said...

Pablo, do you get many birds to your safflower feeder? Here only the cardinals like it I think.

H&B, they keep trying to tell me what to do... oh no wait, it's that they're more brightly colored. :)

Hick, I hate to say it but these days that guy really should have known better!

RD as long as we have thistle out they won't go to anything else!

Ron I'd heard that before about the socks. You do know that Droll Yankee will replace your feeder (or the parts) if they are damaged by squirrels? We got a tray replaced before - just took it back to the store. I am assuming that they still have that policy.

That's strange about the red squirrels - you don't see them much here.

Rurality said...

Well a quick search proved that they do still have that policy:

"If your feeder is badly damaged by squirrels, to the extent that the effectiveness of the feeder is compromised, Droll Yankees will, at its option, either repair, replace, or send replacement parts, free of charge."

That's part of why I love Droll Yankee!

Pablo said...

We switched to safflower seeds (already shelled) so that we would STOP getting starlings. They flew onto our feeder in bunches, like a motorcycle gang converging on a luckless small town (though I don't want to offend cyclists by comparing them to starlings). Starlings tend not to like safflower, though we get occasional visits from the local pack. We also prefer the shelled seeds since sunflower and safflower shells will kill the grass below the feeder.

We get cardinals, of course, blue jays, grackles, mourning doves, chipmunks, chickadees, sparrows, juncos, and the occasional hawk who feeds on the other birds.

If you want to read a fictional account of the consequences of using a non-PC word, read Philip Roth's novel The Human Stain. (My favorite author and his best work in 10 years.) In this case, the word "spooks" is used innocently but offense is taken.

Pablo said...

And I must add, I don't think being PC is bad really. It is simply being respectful. Yes it does mean we all much change some of our behavior, but we wouldn't want to be insulted either. Okay, off my soapbox.

The case of the legitimate word, properly used but improperly construed is sad. But you're right, Hick. It does show the sorry state of education, and perhaps a little hypersensitivity.

roger said...

love the name"droll yankee"

we have a plastic feeder that the squirrels sometimes get onto but haven't damaged yet. it also has a rain hat that shelters the birds while they feed. maybe it is intended to be a squirrel guard.

Rurality said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Pablo! When packing up some books to move recently, I noticed that I had one or two of his that I've never read.

Well I certainly don't believe in insulting anybody. The thing about Niger being changed is odd though, since apparently nobody was complaining... I think they were just afraid that someone would. I would assume that it was named that because of the country or the river Niger. I believe it was some bird seed growers association that did it... changed it to Nyger and then trademarked the name Nyjer. That is what I've read anyway, but just on the internet so of course it may not be correct!

Anyway, at our old house the squirrels and racoons really did a number on our feeders, and the Droll Yankees were about the only ones that lasted. Here I think the coyotes keep the squirrels in check!

Maktaaq said...

>They later changed the spelling to
>Nyger. ..... The botanical name is
>Guizotia abyssinica.

So it's named after the Niger River, but the send part of the scientific name (abyssinica) refers to Ethiopia on the other side of the there more to this story?

Rurality said...

Who knows?! Sometimes the botanical name comes from wherever the plant is first "discovered", which may not be where it is most common... a quick google glance doesn't tell me a lot about it though. No time to delve! :)

Pablo said...

If I remember my high school Latin properly, "niger" is the Latin word for "black." And those seeds are black, so the name may be no more than someone trying to lay a classical foundation for the seed. Just guessing, though.

Rhodent said...

I love the mother gets them at her home in Dunnellon in he winter and at her summer home in Minnesota. They usually don't get as far south as where I live.

Rurality said...

Pablo you may be right! Hadn't thought of that - my school didn't offer Latin. :)

Rho I didn't realize that their range was cut off like that. I guess the foods they like don't extend that far south. Or maybe they just don't like hurricanes. :)

Magazine Man said...

Now why couldn't THESE birds be in my back yard?

(If you haven't read today's entry at my place, please check it out. We're beseiged by a maniacal blackbird)

Charles said...

>> Please excuse the state of the feeder - the wet hulls stick to it

we weren't going to say anything, but we've all spoken about it amongst ourselves.

Rurality said...

MM... your dog would only bite their heads off.

Charles... I had a feeling y'all would gang up on me sooner or later.

jenni said...

My birdfeeder is identical to that one! I haven't had any birds yet though, I just put it up a few days ago.