Goldfinches are one of my favourite birds, I get rather excited when they frequent the garden and feel nervous like a posh aunt is coming for tea. They are just so charming and I guess that is where they get their ‘charm of goldfinches’ from. They have the most amazing striking colours, eat a bit like messy pigs and sound wonderful, I really do enjoy having them around.
It might be because they flock and roam that they are so enchanting, unlike the wonderful blue tits that I see everyday the goldfinches sometimes come all day and then I may not see them for two to three days. I think it is this unpredictability and air of intrigue that makes me like them so much. But how do you attract them to your garden? I know so many of my followers and customers want to have them in their garden, so I thought I’d write a short guide about how to attract them.
Once a bird that was commonly found caged in houses during the 19th centuary until around 1933 when the government passed a law to prevent the sale of wild birds, they have come back from the brink of extinction to become a familiar face once again in our gardens.
The goldfinch has the most striking colours with it’s black and yellow wings, buff body and unmistakably weird red face — that I love! On a misty day they can look quite mad and menacing but in the bright sunshine they really come alive.
In flight, the yellow wing bar becomes a more obvious feature, contrasting with the black plumage around it.
Juvenile birds, which can be seen in early summer, are distinctly less colourful, their buff colour and lack of face markings help them to avoid the attention of predators.
Goldfinches leave nesting until later in the season than most other garden birds. Their first brood hatches around June and subsequent broods hatch as late as September. They choose this strategy so that the birth of their young coincides with times of plentiful food.
Their nest is made from grass and mud and is lined with wool to create a deeply cupped extremely well insulated nest. They often adorn the exterior of their nest with lichen, carefully collected from surrounding trees, presumably to add camouflage to their construction.
Goldfinches often nest in loose colonies and are capable of attaching their nests to the flexible outer branches of trees and bushes.
They don’t use man made nests, so there is very little point trying to put them out. They choose nests that are high up in the trees for security and they are very hard to find.
What do goldfinches eat?
Goldfinches primarily eat seeds. In early summer goldfinches feed on the seeds of small plants such as dandelions and in late summer thistles and teasels become their most important source of food. Their long, slim beaks have evolved to make the goldfinch a specialist thistle feeder.
They also love finch food — something with grass seeds, nyger seeds and they are also partial to sunflower hearts. I made my own blend Finch & Siskin which they love, it is also great for attracting chaffinches, greenfinches and bullfinches alike.
You could also try purchasing a nyger seed feeder, they will often attract goldfinches, you can get them in a range of sizes either with two rings or a few more if you’re hoping for a full charm of goldfinches to flock to your garden.
Planting for goldfinches
They really love teasels so if you want to attract them and play the longer waiting game planting lots of these in your garden can be a great start. Though you might think of them as being just brown and prickly, did you know they’re also great for attracting insects? In summer teasels have pale purple flowers which go down a storm with bees, butterflies and moths.
You could add teasels, dandelions and other thistles to a wildflower meadow which is equally great for other birds and the goldfinches will really enjoy the seeds. They also love sunflowers, so if you want a bright garden with these beautiful flowers you will also be doing wonders for your goldfinch population.
For goldfinches, teasels come into their own in autumn and winter when the seed heads dry out. The goldfinches’ thin beaks are ideally suited for getting at the tiny seeds from between the spikes.
Keep water for the Goldfinches
Being predominantly seed eating birds, goldfinches do need to drink more than most other species so the availability of water is essential to their success.
Goldfinches also like to bathe regularly and their enthusiastic approach to washing is great to watch. They will often comes as a flock to bath in larger bird baths and this can be fantastic to watch!
In summer, natural sources of water can be difficult to find so garden ponds take on extra importance to all garden birds, particularly the seed eating species such as sparrows and finches.