Which Birds Eat Thistle

Overview of Thistle Plants

Thistles plants are hardy, prickly perennials common throughout North America and Europe. Some varieties have showy purple flowers that bloom in early summer. The leaves are prickly to the touch and often have a white vein running down the center. Thistle plants can grow up to six feet tall and thrive in disturbed areas like roadsides, meadows or pastures.

Thistle seeds provide excellent nourishment for birds during the winter months, especially finches who devour them from special thistle feeders. House sparrows also enjoy eating thistle seeds but do not use specialized feeders. In addition to birds, bees seek out the nectar of thistle flowers making it an important food source for pollinators.

It is important to note that some species of thistles are invasive and can spread quickly through their underground root system known as rhizomes. These types of thistles should be controlled through manual or chemical means before they become too well established.

If you want to grow thistle specifically for birdwatching purposes, select a variety like Field Thistle (Cirsium discolor) that is native to your area. This will encourage local bird populations while avoiding the spread of invasive species.

Pro Tip: If you want to attract finches specifically with your thistle feeder, try using Nyjer seed marketed specifically toward these birds. Why did the finch prefer thistle over other seeds? Because it’s the prickliest one on the menu.

Which Birds Eat Thistle?

Advantages of Thistle Seeds for Birds

Thistle seeds are highly nutritious for birds, providing various benefits such as high protein and fat content. These seeds are also a rich source of minerals and vitamins essential for the bird’s well-being. Birds love this food because it is filling and satisfying.

  • Thistle Seeds provide adequate nutrition to birds
  • They are low in calories, which makes it an excellent diet food for health-conscious birds.
  • The oil present in thistle seeds helps keep the bird’s feathers healthy and lustrous.
  • The shells of these seeds aid in proper digestion and help maintain the digestive tract’s health.
  • In winter, thistle seeds provide much-needed energy to birds when other food sources become scarce.

The sharp thorns that cover the thistle plant make it less attractive to other animals, leaving plenty of food for birds. Additionally, many species of birds have a special affinity for thistle seed. The small size of these seeds enables birds with smaller beaks to feed more easily.

It is said that goldfinches have a particular fondness for thistle seed. One account suggests that back during wartime, soldiers rationed their access to food, causing starvation among domesticated birds such as canaries. A woman in England began feeding wild finches at a local church with thistle seeds collected from railway tracks where they grew abundantly. In no time at all, the finch population increased throughout Britain due to the abundance of this newfound preferred food source – thistle seed!

Looks like thistle isn’t just a prickly problem for gardeners, it’s also a tasty treat for these bird species!

Bird Species That Feed on Thistle Seeds

Birds That Enjoy Thistle Seeds

Thistle seeds are a delicacy among different bird species. These birds consume thistle or nyger seeds mainly because of the high-fat content as well as rich nutritional value. Many migratory and locally found birds can be seen feeding on thistle seeds, and they enjoy it equally.

  • Finches: Goldfinches, Pine siskins, Redpolls
  • Sparrows: House sparrow
  • Doves: Mourning doves
  • Buntings: Indigo bunting
  • Jays: Blue Jays

These birds’ selective feeding habits make them eat different types of seeds, and thistle or nyger seeds always win the race in front of other grains. The preferred choice is usually black oil sunflower seed and safflower seed for most bird species except those specifically fond of thistle seeds.

If you want to attract these feathered friends, placing a feeder with nyger or thistle seed will undoubtedly catch their attention. Join us in welcoming these delightful creatures to your yard while enjoying the melodious chirping.

To be a part of nature’s divine bond between humans and birds, have a feeder that satisfies their gastronomical preferences by getting one for yourself right away! Get out your thistle bird call and ruffle some feathers in your neighborhood with our foolproof tips for attracting these hungry avians to your yard.

How to Attract Thistle-Eating Birds to Your Yard

Planting Thistle in Your Yard

Thistle is a great way to attract birds that enjoy its seeds and use it as nesting material. By planting this natural bird feeder in your garden, you can entice American Goldfinches, House Finches, and other thistle-eating species.

To create a successful thistle garden, choose an area with well-drained soil that receives full sun or partial shade. Sow thistle seeds in early spring or late fall and keep the soil moist until the plants have germinated. Thistles are annuals that self-seed readily, so you’ll likely have volunteers returning the following year.

It’s essential to deadhead mature thistle plants regularly to prevent them from reseeding too much. Deadheading involves removing spent blooms before they form seed heads. This ensures fresh flowers and prevents the plant from spreading where it isn’t wanted.

When placing multiple varieties of bird feeders around your garden, make sure they’re visible from each other to reduce the chances of territorial disputes among birds.

A friend once told me that after leaving some thistles on his lawn for a few days, he was amazed by how many goldfinches had stopped by to feast on their seeds. He began planting more thistles in his yard regularly and has been rewarded every summer with visits from these beautiful birds ever since.
If you build it, they will come (and by ‘it’ we mean a bird feeder station, not a baseball field).

Feeding Stations for Birds

Bird Feeding Stations: Providing a Haven for Your Avian Friends

Bird feeding stations are a great way to attract birds to your yard and provide them with the sustenance they need. Here are five points to consider when setting up a feeding station:

  1. Location: Choose a spot that is visible from indoors but also away from potential predators like cats.
  2. Food: Offer a variety of seeds, suet, and other high-energy foods that cater to different species’ needs.
  3. Water: Provide clean water in a shallow dish or bird bath for drinking and bathing.
  4. Shelter: Birds need cover to feel safe while eating, so add nearby trees or bushes for them to perch on.
  5. Cleanliness: Regularly clean the feeding station and surrounding area to prevent disease and maintain hygiene.

While offering food may attract unwanted visitors like squirrels or raccoons, measures such as squirrel-proofing the feeder can help mitigate this issue. Providing birds with food, water, and shelter not only helps them thrive but also enhances our enjoyment of nature.

Don’t let your fear of missing out on attracting feathered friends keep you from setting up a bird feeding station in your yard. With some thoughtful planning and effort, you’ll soon be rewarded with visits from your new avian neighbors.

Get ready to be a peeping Tom with a conscience as we share some ethical tips for spying on chatty thistle-eating birds in your yard.

Tips for Watching Thistle-Eating Birds

Ideal Time of Day for Bird Watching

Bird Watching Tips – Best Time of Day to Observe Avian Species

The ideal time to spot avian species is in the early morning and late afternoon. During these hours, the sky typically has a softer light, casting fewer shadows and making it easier to spot birds perched, nesting or taking flight. Birds are also more active during these periods as they search for food and water sources. Avoid bird watching during midday as birds may be hiding from the harsh glare of the sun.

Additionally, different species have varying feeding habits. Thorn-eating birds, for instance, are best spotted in the late afternoon as they tend to feed on thistles which frequently bloom in that period. The timing also ensures you get a chance to witness both their feeding habits as well as social interactions before they return to their nests at dusk.

Did you know that a group of finches collectively called a ‘charm’ or ‘chirm’ can interbreed naturally?

Get ready to spread your wings and fly to these prime locations for bird watching, where the only thing better than the view is the company of these feathered friends.

Best Locations for Bird Watching

Bird Watching Locations for Optimal Viewing

To get the best bird watching experience, finding ideal spots to explore is crucial.

  • Visit national parks and wildlife reserves, where you can witness diverse bird species in their natural habitat.
  • Coastal areas and wetlands are home to migratory birds that travel thousands of miles each year.
  • Botanical gardens with varied plant life attract local bird populations.
  • Urban environments such as city parks also host a surprising number of birds in the midst of their concrete surroundings.

In addition to these popular locations, some lesser-known areas may offer unique bird sighting opportunities.

One enthusiast shared his story about discovering a family of tiny owls nesting in a tree on his walk around his suburban neighbourhood. The thrill he felt from this unexpected encounter confirms the importance of being open-minded and exploring beyond known hotspots when searching for birds.

Remember, watching thistle-eating birds is always best enjoyed with a side of dark humour and a dash of patience.


Many bird species are known to consume thistle seeds due to their high nutritional value. The American goldfinch and the common redpoll are two primary birds that feed on thistle plants. Both birds have a unique digestive system that allows them to consume thistle seeds easier than other birds. They are known to eat the seeds throughout the year, often seeking out thistle patches in summer months. Thistle plants provide an excellent source of food for birds and support overall ecological balance.

Aside from American goldfinches and common redpolls, there are several other bird species that may eat thistle seeds as part of their diet. For instance, house finches, pine siskins, and indigo buntings often consume thistle seeds when they are readily available. It is important to note that while many birds do eat thistle seeds they prefer different kinds of feed, so it’s important to offer a range of options.

Thistles can also serve as a natural defense mechanism for gardens by attracting birds that will feed on insects nearby. For example, spiders can be unwelcome garden pests but several bird species will eat the spiders if they’re found near thistle plants in the garden.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do goldfinches eat thistle?

A: Yes, goldfinches are known to eat thistle seeds.

Q: What other birds eat thistle?

A: Other birds that eat thistle include pine siskins, common redpolls, American goldfinches, and house finches.

Q: Can thistle be harmful to birds?

A: No, thistle is not harmful to birds. In fact, it is a great source of nutrients for many species.

Q: Is thistle a good bird food?

A: Yes, thistle is a highly nutritious bird food and is a popular choice for bird feeders.

Q: Where can I buy thistle for my bird feeder?

A: Thistle can be purchased at many pet stores, bird supply stores, and online retailers.

Q: Can thistle attract unwanted birds to my bird feeder?

A: No, thistle is generally only attractive to seed-eating songbirds and does not typically attract unwanted birds such as pigeons or starlings.

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.