Attract American Goldfinches To Your Backyard



Attract American Goldfinches

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Welcome, fellow bird lovers! Ever considered transforming your backyard into a sanctuary for the stunning American Goldfinches? These cheerful, vibrant birds can be a delightful sight.

We’ll explore how you can attract these beautiful creatures to your backyard, creating a wildlife haven right at home. So let’s get started on creating the perfect backyard oasis for these colorful feathered friends!

Key Takeaways

  • American Goldfinches are small, yellow and black birds found throughout the US and Canada.
  • They are attracted to thistles, black oil sunflower seeds, and Niger seed, and are strict vegetarians.
  • Goldfinches feed in flocks, prefer acrobatic angles, and can be easily startled.
  • To attract them to your backyard, provide seeds from flowers such as asters, coneflowers, and sunflowers, and offer water sources such as bird baths with adjustable flow.

Appearance and Characteristics

You can easily identify American Goldfinches in your backyard by their yellow and black appearance during the summer months. The males have a bright yellow body with black wings, while females have a more muted yellow with brownish-gray wings. In the winter, they lose their bright colors and become a duller olive-brown.

The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), also known as the Eastern Goldfinch or “Wild Canary,” is a captivating bird with distinctive coloration and charming characteristics. In the summer, male Goldfinches are easily identifiable by their vibrant yellow bodies, contrasting black wings, and a black forehead. Females and winter males are more subdued, sporting olive-brown to dusky yellow plumage. Both genders retain their wing bars, which are white, adding to their striking appearance.

With a body length of 4.3–5.1 inches and a wingspan around 7.5–8.7 inches, these finches are small, yet they are strong fliers with an undulating flight pattern that’s as rhythmical as it is graceful.

The American Goldfinch is a seed-eater, its cone-shaped beak perfectly adapted for a diet of sunflowers, dandelions, and thistles. Their ability to cling upside down on a seed head while feeding is an endearing trait not found in many bird species.

Behaviorally, Goldfinches are sociable, often seen in flocks. Their calls are musical and distinctive, consisting of a series of twitters and warbles, contributing to their alternative name, the “Wild Canary.”

Feeding and Diet

Primarily seed-eaters, they have a strong preference for the seeds of native plants, but they will also readily come to bird feeders for supplemental food, especially in the winter when natural sources are scarce. These birds are strict vegetarians and feed on thistle and weed seeds, as well as seeds from trees. They can also be attracted to black oil sunflower seeds, hulled sunflower chips, and Niger seed at feeders. Niger seed needs to be in a special mesh feeder or a nylon thistle sock.

Here are the top food choices to attract these delightful birds:

  • Sunflower Seeds: Black-oil sunflower seeds are a great choice. They’re high in fat, which provides the energy birds need, and their small size and thin shells make them manageable for a goldfinch’s small beak.
  • Nyjer (Thistle) Seeds: These are the goldfinches’ absolute favorite. Nyjer seeds are tiny, rich in oil, and perfect for the small beaks of finches. They require a special feeder with smaller holes to prevent spillage.
  • Native Plant Seeds: Consider planting native species that produce seeds favored by goldfinches. These include coneflowers, daisies, sunflowers, and thistles.
  • Dandelions: If you allow a corner of your yard to grow dandelions, this can provide a natural food source.
  • Millet: While not the first choice for American Goldfinches, white proso millet can also attract them. It’s a small, round seed that can be included in a seed mix.

What are the best type of bird feeders to attract Goldfinches?

The best types of bird feeders to attract American Goldfinches are those specifically designed to accommodate their feeding habits and preferred seeds.

  • Tube Feeders: These are the most common types used for goldfinches. They’re elongated, have multiple feeding ports, and are often equipped with small perches. To cater to goldfinches’ love for nyjer (thistle) seeds, use a tube feeder with small holes designed for these tiny seeds.
  • Mesh Sock or Bag Feeders: These are designed specifically for nyjer seeds. They are inexpensive and effective, but not as durable as tube feeders.
  • Upside-Down Feeders: Since goldfinches are comfortable feeding upside down, feeders designed with this in mind can help to attract them while discouraging other birds who aren’t as agile.

Metal Bird Feeder Thistle Bird Feeder

Your Ideal Solution for Feeding Finches

Add a touch of elegance to your garden while bringing nature closer with this Metal Bird Feeder, specifically designed for thistle seed. This Brushed Copper, 14-inch tube feeder, holds up to 1.5 lb of Nyger Seed or Finch Mix, providing a convenient and plentiful supply for your feathery visitors. With six perching spots, your garden will be the talk of the avian community. Easy to refill, clean, and hang, this feeder blends functionality with aesthetic appeal, making it a great addition to your outdoor space.

  • Accommodates Multiple Birds: With six standing ports, this feeder allows more bird species to perch and feed simultaneously, including goldfinches, finches, chickadees, redpolls, and siskins.
  • High Quality and Durable: Constructed from rust-resistant metal with a brushed copper finish, this feeder is designed to withstand all weather conditions, offering year-round feeding.
  • Easy to Use: The feeder comes with a convenient flip-top lid for effortless refilling. The transparent seed compartment enables easy monitoring of seed levels to ensure your feathered friends never run out of food.
  • Enhances Garden Aesthetics: The feeder’s antique copper design not only invites a variety of birds but also adds a charming, rustic appeal to your garden.

Here are some additional tips concerning feeders and attracting goldfinches:

Location: Goldfinches prefer feeders in quiet and safe locations, preferably near shrubs or trees that can provide quick cover from predators. However, make sure the feeder is at least 10 feet away from potential hiding spots for cats and other predators.

Cleanliness: Regularly clean your bird feeders to prevent the spread of diseases and keep the goldfinches coming back. Rinse out feeders with a mild bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water), rinse well, and dry thoroughly before refilling.

Consistency: Goldfinches are more likely to frequent feeders that are consistently stocked. Check the seed level often and refill as necessary.

Seed Quality: Ensure you’re using fresh, high-quality seeds. Moldy or spoiled seeds can cause health issues for the birds.

Water Source: In addition to a feeder, provide a water source like a bird bath for the goldfinches to drink from and bathe in.

Plants to Attract Goldfinches

To attract American Goldfinches to your garden, consider planting native species that produce seeds these birds love. Not only will these plants serve as a natural food source, but they will also provide shelter and nesting materials. Here are several options:

  • Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.): Goldfinches enjoy the seeds of both perennial and annual sunflowers. Leaving the spent flower heads in your garden through the fall and winter provides a food source when natural seeds are scarce.
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.): These easy-to-grow perennials are not just beautiful – they produce seed cones that goldfinches love. Leave the seed heads in place after the flowers fade.
  • Thistles (Cirsium and Carduus spp.): While not every gardener’s choice due to their prickly nature, goldfinches love the tiny, plume-like seeds of thistles.
  • Asters (Aster and Symphyotrichum spp.): Asters provide late-season seeds that goldfinches appreciate.
  • Native Grasses: Grasses such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) produce seeds that can supplement a goldfinch’s diet.
  • Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale): Often considered weeds, dandelions are actually excellent sources of seeds for goldfinches. Allowing a patch to grow in an out-of-the-way spot can create a natural feeding station.

Flower gardens can also attract them with seeds from asters, coneflowers, and sunflowers. It’s important to note that different bird species have different feeding techniques. American Goldfinches feed in flocks and prefer acrobatic angles, so it’s important to keep the bird feeder in an open area. Also, they can be easily startled, so make sure the bird feeder is in a quiet area away from noisy children or pets.

Drinking water and bathing in bird baths is also important for these birds, and moving water with a dripping sound attracts them. Solar bird baths with adjustable flow are recommended. Remember, providing diverse food options is important for attracting a variety of bird species to your backyard.

Breeding Season Considerations for Attracting Goldfinches

The American Goldfinch has a unique breeding season compared to many other North American birds, as they begin their nesting process later in the summer. This timing aligns with the peak abundance of seeds from native plants, which the adults use to feed their young. Here are some considerations for attracting goldfinches during breeding season:

  • Feeding: Continue to provide a steady supply of sunflower and nyjer (thistle) seeds in your feeders throughout the summer. This will provide a consistent food source for the adult goldfinches, enabling them to spend more time on nesting and less on foraging.
  • Water: Clean, fresh water sources are essential for birds during breeding season, not just for drinking but also for bathing. A bird bath or a shallow dish of water can serve this purpose well.
  • Shelter and Nesting: Goldfinches often build their nests in shrubs or trees at the edge of wooded areas. Providing a natural, undisturbed habitat can be attractive to them. They tend to use soft materials like thistledown for their nests, so leaving some natural areas in your garden can help provide these materials.
  • Avoid Disturbance: During the breeding season, try to minimize disturbance in the areas where you’ve seen goldfinches nesting. This includes activities like pruning, lawn mowing, or heavy foot traffic.
  • Safe Environment: Predators, particularly outdoor cats, can pose a significant threat to nesting goldfinches and their young. Try to keep predators away from areas where goldfinches are nesting.
  • Avoid Pesticides: Refrain from using pesticides or other chemicals in your garden. These can harm goldfinches and other wildlife, as well as the plants and insects they rely on.


What time of year are American Goldfinches most active?

American Goldfinches are most active during the late summer and early fall, which coincides with their breeding season. Their activities peak when the majority of their preferred foods, such as thistle, sunflower, and other seeds, are readily available. They are also active in late winter and early spring during their molting periods.

Why do American Goldfinches molt?

American Goldfinches molt twice a year, in late summer and late winter, to replace worn-out feathers and to change their plumage for the season. The summer molt in males results in bright yellow breeding plumage, while the winter molt results in a more subdued coloration for camouflage and protection from predators.

What should I avoid when trying to attract American Goldfinches?

When trying to attract American Goldfinches, avoid using pesticides or other chemicals in your garden as they can harm these birds and their food sources. Also, avoid disturbance in the areas where they are nesting during breeding season. Providing clean, fresh water and food in dirty feeders can also deter them.

Are American Goldfinches aggressive?

American Goldfinches are generally not aggressive birds. They are gregarious and often seen in flocks. While they can exhibit territorial behaviors during the breeding season, they are typically peaceful and coexist well with other bird species in shared habitats.

Can I attract American Goldfinches all year round?

Yes, you can attract American Goldfinches all year round. While their presence and activity levels may fluctuate depending on the season, maintaining a steady supply of their preferred foods and providing a safe, hospitable environment can keep them visiting your garden throughout the year.

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