These stunning birds are one of the more exotic looking we have visiting our gardens here in Britain. Their colourful feathers make then stand out and easy to spot. This being one of many reasons that people like to attract them to the garden. In the 19th century Goldfinch were often kept as caged pet birds. With their beautiful plumage and charming tinkling tweet song; they made great house guests. This did however promote dwindling numbers of these delightful birds being seen in the wild. Thankfully the RSPB tirelessly fought to have this stopped. Now we see a thriving population of Goldfinch across the country; and they are currently one of the top ten birds seen in British gardens.
How to spot a Goldfinch
These striking birds canbe easy to spot when looking in the right places. They do like to hid away in trees, but great for us they don’t camouflage in well. The main part of their body is a little brown gingery colour with white patches on their underneath and around the head. Their wings and tail are a deep black with white blotches running down the centre. They have a sunflower yellow streak down the side of each wing. When the gold Finch takes flight this yellow strip is more prominent as its wing fan out. And last but not least the Goldfinches most striking feature is its blood red face and black eye mask. This gives the Goldfinches identity away instantly. With all these distinguishing features, it’s no wonder why people look to attract these birds to their gardens. If you are one of those people looking to attract Goldfinch to your garden let’s take a look at the best ways to achieve it.
Goldfinches are not very particular about their surroundings they are happy to inhabit woods, farm, heath, moor and wetland areas. As well as urban parks and gardens. However are fussy about their food. Goldfinches are particularly fond of seeds from plants such as Teasels, thistles and dandelions. As these are easy self-seeding plants, some even classed as weeds, they can be found growing wild in all kinds of places. They will often travel for miles just to find the specific seeds they are looking for. These vibrant birds are extremely gregarious and form flocks of over one hundred in the winter months whilst looking for food. This is also the case when nesting, sticking together in numbers. If you see one nesting goldfinch family, you are quite often likely to see others nearby. They do like the weather slightly warmer so will generally stick to southern areas; and are completely absent from areas of Scotland. In times when the weather has turned exceptionally cold in the UK; Goldfinch have been found to migrate as far as Spain to get a warmer winter. With this in mind we can attempt to recreate the type of environment perfect for a Goldfinch in your own garden.
Food – Goldfinches can be particularly finicity when it comes to food. They have one staple food in their diet which is Seed. This is also the food of choice for their offspring, regurgitated seeds. Firm favourites are thistles, teasels, dandelions and sunflower seeds. Their long and pointed beaks are perfect for prizing seeds from the flower heads. Recreating this in a bird feeder can be an easy way to feed the Goldfinch that come to your garden; as they are already used to fishing the seeds from narrow spaces. There are particular feeders on the market special for the small seeds Goldfinches love. They are also fans of Niger Seeds; however these are not native to the UK so can’t be found in the wild. Niger seeds are therefore a fantastic treat for the Goldfinches to feast on.
Water – Being granivorous birds, Goldfinches need lots of water. Seeds can be quite dry, so washing them down with a drink of water is very necessary. They would usually use a nearby pond, steam or even puddles to drink from. However when the birds are feeding in your garden, there may not be an obvious water source close by. It is therefore advisable to leave out some fresh water for the birds to drink after feeding. They also like to stay clean; where possible finding a running water source to have a shower under or a shallow pool of water to stand in and clean themselves. A platformed bird bath is a great option in this instance. But going one step further could be to have a pond with an added waterfall or fountain.
Nesting – Goldfinches are late nesters in comparison to our other garden birds. Typical broods can be expected between the months of June – September. When making a nest the Goldfinch will place it high in the tree tops between outer branches where it can stay safely away from climbing predators. Small twigs, grasses and mud make up the outer casing of the nest.This is then filled with insulating materials such as wool. Unfortunately Goldfinches are not Cavity nesting birds so won’t choose to use a bird box if left out for them. However there are still thing you can do to aid them when making their nests.Leaving a pile of plant trimming and natural garden waste out allows the birds to rifle through for any good nesting materials. Similarly leaving out any excess natural fluff material for insulation is good. Things like wool or cotton but nothing to dusty that the birds could choke on.
Planting and shelter – Planting is your best bet when looking to attract Goldfinches to your garden. This is something they will recognise straight away, whist also making your garden look attractive. A firm favourite to get you started are Teasels. They are a nice addition to the garden as they add height to your flower bed and are quite unique looking.This wild plant comes in different varieties and can be a little spikey. However they have a lovely pompom like flower that come in various colours, to be easily spotted by Goldfinches.Other plants such as Thistles and dandelions will add a wild looking element to your garden and the birds will love it, as well as other insects too.Big bushy trees and shrubs are so great for Shelter; and keep the birds safe from predators.
Hopefully these tips have helped and you are able to implement one if not all into your garden. As this will then give you the best chance of attracting Goldfinches. It is such a lovely spectacle and you will not be disappointed once these fantastic birds inhabit your garden. Do not be disheartened if at first you are not all of a sudden swarmed with Goldfinch. This one is a waiting game, but well worth it. And don’t forget that even if it isn’t Goldfinch which takes up residence in your garden then other birds and insects will still take advantage of the great new additions to your garden.