The elusive goldfinch is a funny little thing; a curious face, a slender body, and of course some of the most magically vibrant colourings of any songbird. These interesting creatures can be found nearly everywhere in the world, at nearly any time of year. They make an excellent addition to any yard, which is why so many people are looking for ways to attract them into their gardens.
Goldfinches can be somewhat finicky, but don’t let this put you off. They truly are one of the most beautiful garden-birds, and can really help to bring your yard to life. They’re a pleasure to watch flit about, with a stunning song to match.
Let’s take a look at a few of the best (and most reliable ways) to attract goldfinches onto your land year-round.
1. Colorful Garden
We’re not the only creatures drawn to bright colours and beautiful plants – goldfinches are, too! You might not necessarily think it, but one of the best ways to encourage visiting goldfinches is with colourful garden plants.
As a rule of thumb, birds are typically drawn to natural camouflage colours – obviously, this will vary from species to species, as different birds will have different natural colourings and requirements.
Goldfinches are generally a lovely yellow-goldy colour, so you should aim to plant and grow yellow flowers that can provide shelter and safety for the nervous birds. Make sure to grow a little bit of red, with a neutral earthy-brown, too! Teasel (the brown, prickly one) is also a fantastic choice.
Finally, you should try to let the flowers bloom and seed. They can provide essential nesting materials to plenty of our flying friends.
Small birds, such as the goldfinch, absolutely must seek out proper shelter. As they are vulnerable whilst hunting, feeding and courting, it’s imperative that they find reliable and protective shelter – AKA, thorny bushes.
The thicker the brush, the better; not only will it make the bird harder to see, but it will make it much harder for predators to get to them. Similarly, the thorns on the brambles or bushes will provide an extra layer of security, further protecting the small body of the goldfinch.
Bramble bushes won’t provide shelter all year round, so you should plant some thick evergreen trees, too – goldfinches are around throughout the whole year, so will need appropriate shelter throughout every season.
3. Correct Seeds
If there’s one thing that goldfinches can’t get enough of, it’s Nyjer. The thistle seed is a kind of delicacy to the small birds and is one seed that will keep them coming back for more.
Luckily, it’s possible to purchase feeders designed exclusively for holding Nyjer. These will provide different perching points for the birds to choose, allowing them different angles to access their favourite snack whenever they please.
Just remember that it’s EXTREMELY important to regularly clean the feeder, making sure that the seeds don’t rot or go bad.
For the best results, provide multiple feeders, and your yard will become a sprawling haven for goldfinches in no time.
You might think that by installing bird-houses, you’re improving the chances of seeing goldfinches in your garden. Unfortunately, the goldfinch is not a cavity-nesting bird. They will not seek shelter in the holes formed in old wood or trees, so they will not be drawn to typical birdhouses as other birds (such as the bluebird) might.
Goldfinches prefer to nest in a soft, downy material – not unlike us! They will build nests using whatever comfortable things they can find, such as cotton, feathers, or even fallen dandelions! You don’t need to provide dandelions in your garden, why not try providing a cotton nesting material?
It’s important to note that goldfinch do nest at a different time of the year. Check with your local birdwatching groups to find out exactly when your local birds will nest, and supply materials accordingly.
5. Clean Water Bath
This isn’t just universal to goldfinches; clean water is a necessity for all kinds of birds. Bird baths provide a source of drinking water, but also a way for them to quickly clean themselves – as such, the water can quickly become dirty, and in some cases, even develop red algae.
Keep the water in shaded areas, and make sure to change it every day. If you do notice your water become exceptionally dirty, you should give the whole bath a deep clean before refilling it with fresh water.
Why do Goldfinches change color in winter?
Goldfinches are known for their stark, vibrant yellowy plumage, though you may have noticed that they seem to change colour – especially over the winter months. Don’t worry – the drastic change isn’t due to illness or migratory habits. Instead, it serves as an effective method for the bird to quickly hide from predators.
These bright little birds are very hard to miss, and they’d be even more prominent during the colder month when there aren’t as many colourful flowers or plants to hide in. In order to counter this, their plumage becomes a more dull, earthy colour.
The change in colouring allows the goldfinch to blend better into its surroundings, providing a great camouflage to deter any predators.
How do Goldfinches change color?
So, you know why the goldfinch will change colours – now let’s look at how they do it.
A goldfinch will change their colour through the process of moulting – this is when they will ‘shed’ their old feathers, in order to grow new, less colourful replacements. It isn’t an overnight process, and a bird can take up to a month or two to fully moult, so they generally begin the process just as the seasons begin to change.
In the spring months, when bright flowers are beginning to grow, the goldfinch will begin ‘growing out’ of their winter plumage. The familiar yellow accents will emerge, and the bird will lose the majority of their winter coat.
Moulting is hard work for any species, taking up a lot of energy or other resources – that’s why you don’t see it too often.Oddly enough, only the male of the species will moult. The females remain the same earthy colours year-round.
How do Goldfinches survive winter?
One method that a goldfinch will employ is the moulting process listed above. By changing their colours – much like a chameleon – they will have a significantly better chance of blending into their surroundings, making it much harder for predators (such as housecats) to see them.
As you may know, moulting takes a LOT of energy, so it’s very important for the goldfinch to stay fed and hydrated to combat a loss of body heat. As the bugs they might usually feed on aren’t as prevalent throughout the colder seasons, a finch is likely to switch to a diet of berries and seeds if they don’t migrate.
If you’re looking to attract winter finches, you should leave easily accessible seeds and berries, along with fresh water. A finch can’t make use of frozen ice, so make sure to replace it every day.
How do Goldfinches survive winter?
Certain flocks of goldfinches will migrate, whereas some prefer a home comfort throughout the cold seasons. Much like the bluebird, a goldfinch will choose to stay where there is a reliable food supply.
If the bird knows that they can rely on seeds and berries throughout winter, they’re much more likely to stay put. If food is scarce, though, they will form a compact flock and fly to warmer continents, with many choosing to spend the winter in Mediterranean countries like Spain.
Fittingly, a flock of migrating goldfinches is called a ‘charm.’
Here are some amazing finches and goldfinches feeding!
We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!