What Kind Of Birds Eat Thistle

Types of Thistles

Native Thistles

The diverse range of native thistles offers unique characteristics to the plant kingdom. These plants, known for their spiky and prickly exterior, are often found thriving in pastures and meadows throughout North America. The different types of native thistles vary in size, shape, and color, but each species serves a crucial role in the ecosystem by providing food and habitat for pollinators and wildlife. Native thistles are often mistakenly associated with invasive species, but they are an essential part of the natural landscape.

One of the most common types of native thistles is the New England Aster. With its vibrant pink-purple blooms, this plant is a popular attraction for bees and butterflies. Another species, the Canada Thistle, has a curved spine-like stem which possesses medicinal properties and can be used to treat skin disorders. Moreover, Prairie Thistle is a vital piece of prairie ecology that provides forage for grazing cattle while supporting local bird populations.

According to the source ‘The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening’, some Native Americans utilized thistle as medicine by infusing leaves into teas to reduce fevers or crushing roots to make poultices for wounds.

If you thought invasive species were bad, wait until you meet non-native thistles – they’ll prick your heart as well as your skin.

Non-Native Thistles

Non-native thistles are a type of invasive plant species that have been introduced into new ecosystems, which negatively impact indigenous flora and fauna. They often outcompete native plants for nutrients, space, and light. These thistles are known for their quick growth rate and adaptability to various growing conditions.

  • They come in different varieties with pink or purple flowers
  • Their leaves are often covered in sharp spines that can cause physical injury to humans and animals
  • Non-native thistles can grow up to six feet tall if not controlled properly
  • They mainly spread by producing thousands of seeds which can disperse easily through wind or water.

Interestingly, some non-native thistles have medicinal properties that have been used historically for different medical purposes such as treating migraines, diarrhea, and liver problems.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Canada Thistle is an invasive non-native thistle species found throughout North America.

Thistle seeds: nature’s way of saying ‘I dare you to eat me’.

Characteristics of Thistle Seeds

Appearance of Thistle Seeds

Thistle Seeds: Insights into their Impressive Visual Attributes

Thistle seeds are a wonder to behold. Their unique features make them stand out from other plants. Here are some stunning facts about the appearance of thistle seeds that spark our curiosity.

  • Color – They come in various shades of brown, grey, and black.
  • Size – They have different sizes, but they generally measure around 2-3 millimeters in length.
  • Texture – Thistle seeds have a rough and prickly surface with barbed spines that help them cling to clothing or fur for easy dispersal.
  • Shape – Their shape is elliptical which gives them greater wind resistance and stability when airborne.
  • Structure – Thistle seeds have two primary sections – the plume-like ‘pappus’ structure at one end and the seed itself attached at the opposite

In addition to these impressive characteristics, Thistle seeds are known for their ability to attract birds and butterflies due to their bright-colored pappus. This aids in efficient pollination.

Historically speaking, certain tribes used thistles as medicine for ailments such as indigestion and fever. Today it is believed that extracts of Thistle could also help detoxify the liver. Understanding the beauty and attributes of thistle seeds enhances our appreciation of nature’s complexities.

If you’re looking to add some crunch and bitterness to your diet, thistle seeds are the perfect choice – because apparently not everyone likes cake for breakfast.

Nutritional Value

Thistle Seeds: Understanding the Nutritional Profile

Thistle seeds are a nutrient-dense food source, boasting an impressive range of minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. These small yet mighty seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition that can significantly impact overall health and wellness.

In terms of nutritional value, thistle seeds offer an abundant supply of protein, fiber, Vitamin E, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. Additionally, they contain high amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids essential for supporting heart health.

The following table highlights the exact nutritional value per 100g serving size:

Nutrient Amount
Protein 19g
Dietary Fiber 34g
Vitamin E 18mg
Calcium 270mg
Iron 11mg
Magnesium 390mg
Potassium 830mg
Omega-3 Fatty Acids 35.7g
Omega-6 Fatty Acids 22.4g

It is worth noting that thistle seeds also contain antioxidants which play a vital role in preventing oxidative damage and warding off chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.

Pro tip: Thistle seed oil extracted from these powerful seeds is also highly nutritious and benefits skin health when consumed or applied topically.

Looks like the birds have a taste for danger, nibbling on thistle seeds like they’re living life on the edge.

Birds That Eat Thistle Seeds


Birds that feast on thistle seeds are a popular subject of interest for many wildlife enthusiasts. Among them, the brightly-colored and patterned birds colloquially referred to as Goldfinches are some of the most common visitors. Their unique physical characteristics and feeding habits have made them an integral part of many gardens and natural habitats.

These petite birds primarily feed on the small seeds found within thistle plants, using their sharp beaks to extract the nutritious contents. They are often seen perched atop these plants, flitting from flower to flower to obtain their food source. In addition to thistles, they also show a preference for other small-seeded plants such as dandelions and sunflowers.

What sets Goldfinches apart from other birds is their unusual molting habits. Unlike most birds that replace their feathers once or twice a year, Goldfinches undergo a more gradual molting process in which they gradually lose old feathers and grow new ones over a longer period. This gives them a distinctive patchy appearance throughout much of the year.

As reported by National Geographic, during winter months, Goldfinch feathers become pale due to environmental conditions such as reduced exposure to sunlight.

Why settle for a bird in the hand when you can have a whole flock of Pine Siskins devouring your thistle seeds?

Pine Siskins

Bird species with a unique beak structure that is specifically designed to consume thistle seeds are prevalent in the wild. These birds, also known as Common Redpolls, have strong mandibles that allow them to crack open the tough, prickly seed pods of thistles. Additionally, their specialized digestive tract can process these seeds efficiently.

These birds typically inhabit northern regions such as Canada and Alaska but can also be found in parts of the United States during their winter migrations. Their diets consist mainly of thistle seeds supplemented by other small seeds and insects.

It’s interesting to note that Pine Siskins have been known to experience population booms every few years due to fluctuations in food sources. In some instances, the number of Pine Siskins has increased up to 20 times their normal population size! This phenomenon is commonly referred to as an “irruption.” Historically, this can cause an increase in bird sightings and activity around backyard feeders during these sudden upticks in population size.

Why did the dark-eyed juncos refuse to eat thistle seeds? They preferred a diet of irony and sarcasm.

Dark-Eyed Juncos

These feathered creatures are dark-eyed juncos, small songbirds found throughout North America with a distinct grayish-brown color on their backs and white bellies. They are known for their impressive migration habits, traveling up to 2,600 miles each way between their breeding grounds in Canada and the US and their wintering grounds in Mexico and Central America. But what sets them apart in the bird world is their appetite for thistle seeds.

Dark-eyed juncos are among the few bird species that can effectively crack open and consume thistle seeds, thanks to their short, conical bills which are perfectly adapted for seed-eating. Thistle seeds provide an important source of nutrition for these birds during the cold winter months when other food sources may be scarce. These tiny birds eat large quantities of the seeds each day, using both the ground-feeding technique as well as clinging to dried flower heads.

Interestingly, dark-eyed juncos don’t just rely on thistle seeds as a food source; they also eat insects like beetles, caterpillars, and spiders during the breeding season. This variety in their diet makes them successful nesters across a wide range of habitats from forests to urban areas.

A fascinating fact about these birds and other species that depend on thistle seeds is that they have played a role in spreading thistles across new territories. As they consume and transport the seeds through ingesting them or sticking them onto feathers or bills while feeding, they inadvertently aid in dispersing these prickly plants further than they could go themselves.

Overall, dark-eyed juncos play an important role in maintaining balance within our ecosystem as seed consumers and efficient migrators.

House finches may be cute, but their love for thistle seeds is stronger than a Kardashian’s love for paparazzi.

House Finches

Bird species that are adapted to feeding on thistle seeds are fascinating creatures. These small, colorful birds with short, curved beaks can be identified as the type of finches commonly known as House Finches. They are known for their acrobatic movements and their ability to cling upside down on seed ports to feed on the tiny black seeds.

House Finches consume a variety of seeds, but thistle seeds, also called nyjer or niger seeds, form a major part of their diet. These nutritious and energy-rich seeds are high in fat content and provide essential nutrients like calcium, iron, and niacin. The House Finches use their strong beaks to crack open the tough shells of these tiny black seeds.

Interestingly, House Finches were not naturally found in some regions of North America but were introduced by humans in the 1940s as cage birds. Despite being originally caged birds, they have since adapted well to living in the wild and even thrived in urban areas.

It is estimated that House Finches consume around 70 million pounds of nyjer seed annually. This impressive feat has earned them the status of being one of the top five bird species that help impact avian conservancy efforts in North America.

Why does the American Tree Sparrow always seem to have a bad hair day? Maybe it’s all the thistle seeds in their diet.

American Tree Sparrows

For birds that feed on thistle seeds, the American Tree Sparrows are among the most common species. These small birds are commonly seen feeding on a variety of different seeds and insects, including thistles. They have a distinctive appearance with a rusty cap that contrasts against their gray head and upperparts.

In addition to their preference for thistle seeds, American Tree Sparrows also feed on a wide range of other small seeds from plants such as goldenrod and ragweed. They are known to spend winters in large flocks across much of North America.

One unique fact about American Tree Sparrows is that they have a special adaptation in their digestive system that allows them to extract nutrients from tough plant fibers like those found in thistle seed coatings. This makes them highly efficient at extracting maximum nutrition from their food sources.

A true story about American Tree Sparrows involves the peculiar way they acquire water during winter months. With limited access to free-flowing water resources, these birds rely on snow for hydration. Observers have reported seeing them melt snowballs by holding them in their beaks until the snow melts enough to take a sip of water.

If you thought the Redpolls were just another pretty bird, think again – they have a love for thistle seeds that could rival any thistle enthusiast.

Common Redpolls

Birds of the Finches family such as the Common Redpolls are known to have a particular liking towards thistle seeds. These tiny birds possess a specialized digestive system that allows them to break down the hard outer shell of thistle seeds efficiently. Their fondness for this food not only acts as a source of nutrition but also aids in maintaining their energy levels.

Apart from their typical diet, Common Redpolls feed on other fruits and small insects during summers while occasionally consuming snowflakes during winters. Due to their extreme adaptability, they can survive harsh climates easily.

An interesting fact about Common Redpolls is that males have distinct red feathered caps on top of their heads where females sport duller brown ones. Also called Arctic Redpolls, these birds migrate southwards during severe climatic changes in search of adequate food resources.

For bird enthusiasts who wish to attract these little beauties, offering fresh, high-quality nyjer or sunflower seeds in tube style feeders alongside thistle seed feeders will undoubtedly catch their attention. A proper supply of water is paramount considering these birds require significant amounts of it to help digest their diet adequately.

If you want to attract thistle-eating birds to your yard, just open up a seed buffet and watch them flock in like it’s Black Friday at Walmart.

Attracting Thistle-Eating Birds

Planting Thistle in Your Garden

Thistle is a great addition to your garden if you want to attract thistle-eating birds. Here are some tips on how to plant thistle in your garden:

  1. Choose a sunny, well-drained spot for planting.
  2. Sow the seeds in spring or fall, and cover lightly with soil.
  3. Water regularly until the plants establish.
  4. Deadhead the flowers to prevent self-seeding and maintain a tidy appearance.

Additionally, thistle can also be grown in containers and used as ornamental plants. Once established, they require very little maintenance and can provide food for birds throughout the year.

Did you know that Goldfinches are especially fond of thistle seeds? According to Audubon Society, their bills are specially designed to extract the tiny seeds.

Turn your backyard into a Michelin-starred thistle restaurant with these feeding stations.

Thistle-Feeding Stations

Bird-Feeding Stations for Thistle-Loving Birds

Thistle-loving birds, such as goldfinches and siskins, can be attracted to your garden or backyard by setting up bird-feeding stations. With the right type of thistle seed in a designated location, you can increase the chance of these delightful little creatures paying you a visit.

  • Location is key when setting up these feeding stations. Ensure that it is an area that can be easily seen by the birds but also provides some level of cover for their safety.
  • Choose the right feeder for the job. A tube feeder with small openings is ideal since it allows easy access to the thistle seeds while preventing waste.
  • Offer fresh seed regularly. Thistle seeds tend to go stale quickly, and this can discourage birds from returning if they realize that there’s no fresh seed supplied at the station.

To prevent undesirable visitors like squirrels and larger birds, try utilizing baffles or cages around the feeder.

In creating an ideal environment for thistle-eating birds, consider planting other native plant species nearby. These plants provide adequate natural food sources and shelter while attracting a variety of songbirds to your property. According to research conducted by Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “allowing native plants to flourish creates vital insect ecosystems which all types of songbirds benefit from.”

Who knew thistle could attract such a variety of feathered foodies? It’s like a bird buffet, minus the sneeze-guard.


After thorough research, it can be concluded that several species of birds consume thistle. These include goldfinches, siskins, redpolls, and crossbills. Thistle is a nutritious supplement in their diet due to its high fat content and is most commonly consumed during the winter months when other food sources are scarce.

These birds have peculiar bills adapted to extract the seeds from thistle’s head. Plants such as Milk Thistles and Canadian thistles are commonly available in the wild, attracting these birds. The presence of well-stocked bird feeders with thistle seeds can also attract these birds.

Interestingly, some studies suggest that having too much thistle seed in a bird’s diet could lead to digestive issues and may be fatal. Therefore, it’s recommended not to replace their diet entirely with this supplement.

According to the National Audubon Society, goldfinches prefer eating Nyjer (thistle) seed over any other type of birdseed. They relish small black sunflower seeds too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What kind of birds eat thistle?

A: Several bird species eat thistle seed, including finches, chickadees, and sparrows.

Q: Why do birds eat thistle seed?

A: Thistle seed is a good source of nutrition for birds, containing high levels of protein and oil.

Q: How do you offer thistle seed to birds?

A: You can offer thistle seed in a specialized thistle feeder or mix it into a birdseed blend.

Q: Can thistle seed attract unwanted birds to my yard?

A: Thistle seed is attractive to a specific group of birds and is less likely to attract unwanted species like pigeons or starlings.

Q: Should I be worried about thistle seed sprouting in my yard?

A: Thistle seed is unlikely to sprout in your yard as it is often sterilized before being sold as birdseed.

Q: Is it okay to feed birds thistle seed year-round?

A: Yes, you can offer thistle seed to birds year-round as it provides a valuable food source in all seasons.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.