The American Goldfinch is a favorite backyard songbird, adored for their bright yellow color, graceful flight and enchanting song.
Many people call this bird the “Wild Canary”- Much of the public doesn’t realize that the Goldfinches are not bright gold “all” year.
As the nesting season winds down and fall colors begin to appear, Goldfinches molt. That is, they replace their worn, tattered feathers with a set of fresh, new feathers. The appearance of males changes drastically at this time.
The brilliant yellow body feathers are replaced by dull brownish plumes, and the striking black cap disappears. Females also molt, but their appearance doesn’t change. Goldfinches wearing drab winter plumage flock to bird feeders.
Keep Finch feeders out year-around to enjoy their bright colors during warmer months.
What is a group of Goldfinches called? A charm
Goldfinches are primarily monogamous birds, but a few females will seek a different partner after producing the first brood. These prolific females leave their original mate behind to raise their fledglings, while they journey off to start a new family.
The American Goldfinch is the only member of its family to complete two full molts a year. All other species only molt once in the fall, but Goldfinches undergo a total molt of their body feathers in the spring as well-just in time for breeding season.
When other songbirds are finished with breeding season, the American Goldfinch is just getting started! They are one of the latest birds to breed-typically waiting until late June or early July.
You can encourage Goldfinches to nest in your yard by providing nest material.
Nyjer Seed resembles grains of wild rice and is coveted by Goldfinches for its high fat and protein content. House Finches, Purple Finches, Towhees, Pine Siskins, and Juncos enjoy a little Nyjer in their diet. Nyjer imported into the United States has been heated to prevent it from germinating-so seed sprouting is not a concern.
Mixing Nyjer seed with fine-chopped Sunflower Kernels reduces the mess on the yard and patio-Also the Pine Siskins and others, like it better than straight Nyjer. All Finch mixes require a special feeder with very small openings.
Finch Feeding Tips:
Unlike most other birds that come to our feeders, Goldfinches eat seed almost exclusively. In fact unlike many other Finches, Goldfinch chicks are fed few, if any, insects. Instead they get the same seeds their parents eat. When a parent returns to feed its young, its crop is full of partially digested seed-Enough to feed the whole brood. Because of the amount of food brought each time, the young are only fed twice each hour.
Perched at and around the feeders, Goldfinches eat seed after seed. It gives us a wonderful opportunity to watch them at length. We love the Songbird Essentials™ Spiral Feeder, as it has more openings per inch of feeder than standard “Perch Restricted” feeders and its “Flip N’Fill™” feature means you can fill it from the top one time and the bottom the next. This means seed never gets old in the bottom of the feeder.
You will find that Goldfinches don’t eat the seed at the bottom of a feeder because it gets packed down, moist and mildews when feeders are filled from the top. When filling a thistle feeder, mix old seed in the bottom of the feeder with new seed, and then refill. This will help attract more Goldfinches.
One of the keys to keeping Goldfinches around is eliminating their need to compete. Goldfinches will often just give up and fly away when other species crowd around a feeder. To enjoy Finches when they are bright gold, many people put out “extra” Finch Feeders utilizing inexpensive thistle sacks.
Gardening for Goldfinches
Habitat can also be a key to attracting Goldfinches. Don’t cut off the tops of your Marigolds, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers because Goldfinches really like them. Also, Goldfinches really like dandelions.
To learn more about attracting Goldfinches, please watch this short video from backyard birding expert, Bird Man Mel.