Bird Seed Agar: Principle Composition and Uses

Staibs medium also known as Bird seed agar is a selective and differential medium for isolation of Cryptococcus neoformans from clinical specimens and differentiation of it from other Cryptococcus species. Due to the presence of phenol oxidase enzyme, Cryptococcus spp are able to utilize various phenolic compounds as their substrate and produce dark brown, melanin like pigments and are thus presumptively identified. In 1966, Shields and Ajello modified Staib’s Birdseed Agar by making the medium selective with an antimicrobial additive. It is also known as Caffeic Acid Agar or Niger Seed Agar.

Colonies of C. neoformans in Bird seed Agar


The extract of Guizotia abyssinica seeds contains caffeic acid. Phenoloxidase enzyme produced by Cryptococcus neoformans utilizes caffeic acid as a substrate and produces melanin which in turn is absorbed by the yeast cell wall forming a tan to reddish-brown pigmentation. Glucose is the energy source in the medium. Creatinine enhances melanization of some strains of Cryptococcus neoformans. Agar is the solidifying agent. Chloramphenicol is added to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fast growing fungi.


Ingredients Gm / Litre
Guizotia abyssinica seeds 70g
Creatinine 0.780g
Dextrose 10g
Chloramphenicol 0.050g
Agar 20g
Final pH ( at 25°C) 6.7±0.2

Procedure for preparation of media:

  1. Suspend desired quantity (as per manufacturers instruction)of powder media in 1litre of distilled water.
  2. Heat to boiling to dissolve the medium completely.
  3. Sterilize by autoclaving at 15 lbs pressure (121°C) for 15 minutes.
  4. Cool to 45°C and add 100 mcg diphenyl per ml of medium (1 ml of sterile 1% w/v aqueous solution of dipehnyl).
  5. Mix well and pour into sterile Petri plates.

NOTE: The composition and method for preparation of media varies according to the manufacturer. Some media contain pre-added phosphate and other antibiotics like penicillin G, Gentamicin while others need supplements to be added.

Interpretation of results:

Plates inoculated with suspected samples are observed after incubation at 30°C for 2 weeks. The presence of golden brown to black pigmented smooth colonies is indicative of Cryptococcus neoformans. Other species like Cryptococcus laurentii, Saccharomyces cerevisiae  etc produce non-pigmented colonies. Candida shows white colonies.


Bird Seed Agar is used for the selective isolation of Cryptococcus neoformans and Cryptococcus gattii.

Quality control:

Cryptococcus neoformans ATCC 32045 can be used as a Positive Control that shows brown to black pigmented colonies.

Escherichia coli ATCC 25922 can be used as a Negative Control in which growth is inhibited partially or completely.

About Nisha Rijal 18 Articles
I am working as Microbiologist in National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), government national reference laboratory under the Department of health services (DoHS), Nepal. Key areas of my work lies in Bacteriology, especially in Antimicrobial resistance.