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can bird thistle seed cause thistle weed

Many mixed seed varieties feature a no-mess or no-waste bird seed. These contain such bird foods as hulled sunflower seeds (seeds without hulls), hulled white proso millet, sunflower chips (hulled and broken), peanut pieces, cracked corn, dried fruits, and nuts (without the shell).

Almost all bird seed will sprout. If an unwanted plant is defined as a weed, then bird seed that sprouts is a weed. Some sprouting bird seed may look like grass at first. But bird seeds grow into whatever seed you are feeding: sunflowers, millet, wheat, milo, flax, rapeseed, canary seed. How do you keep bird seed from growing under your feeder?

First, let’s find out a bit about the seeds in the birdseed! What is it?

Catch those seeds!

This sounds like way too much work, though. How about some other ideas?

In 2001 the USDA required imported Niger seed for birds to be sterilized for 15 minutes at 120˚ C (248˚ F). This sterilizes the seeds.

Just like you, birds have a preference of foods they like. They get up on the feeder and scratch through the mixed seeds, searching for their favorite food.

Regularly rake or sweep up the hulls and spilled seeds before they germinate. You may wish to invest in an outdoor backpack vacuum/blower. You need one anyway, for those fall leaves, right?

Here is what I learned after searching:

When I started feeding thistle to the birds, I heard somewhere that it will not germinate. I felt safe that I was not adding any more of the invasive plant to our environment.

A month ago, a friend gave me an opened bag of thistle, saying she got it from someone who started feeding this to the birds, but noticed thistle sprouting around her place where she had none before. This friend did not want to risk having any in her yard, so was passing it on to me. Now I hear others saying they have stopped feeding thistle to the birds for that reason. This aroused my curiosity: Maybe I’ve been wrong all this time.

1. It is not a thistle at all, but rather Niger Plant (Guizotia abyssinica). It is believed “thistle” was used in early marketing to take advantage of the Goldfinches’ preference for thistle seeds. The plant has no prickles and it is related to sunflowers. The Wild Bird Feeding Industry has trademarked the name Nyjer in an attempt to eliminate further confusion and avoid possible mispronunciation.
2. This seed should not germinate here. As of 1982, the USDA required the imported seed to be sterilized through a heat-treatment process. In 2001, they increased the temperature because the original requirement didn’t quite do the job. Some known invasives would get into the Nyjer and grow here.
3. Cultivars have been developed in the US for agricultural production, and this is not considered to be a Federal noxious weed.

If you find thistles growing in your yard, it might be from seed blowing in from a nearby location. Continue to fill your socks and finch feeders with this seed and enjoy the birds!

For interest’s sake, I found some Canada Thistle seed and placed it alongside Nyjer.