“Where are my goldfinches?”
This question has been on the lips of many of our customers this fall. Whereas they are used to seeing dozens of the beautiful yellow songbirds daily surrounding their feeders at this time of year, they have been notably absent of late. Why is this happening?
The answer, it turns out, is nothing to be concerned about. They have not “vanished” or suffered a population crash or anything sinister. Very simply, they are not visiting your feeders as frequently because there is such an abundance of natural food available to them this year.
This fall has been significantly warmer than usual, especially for southern Ontario. This may have contributed to a spike in the production of pine and birch cones, which make up a good portion of the goldfinches’ autumn food supply. When birds are able to locate widespread food sources, they tend to be more scattered throughout the landscape. As a result, they are generally harder to spot. So while you may not see them in the same numbers at your feeders, rest assured they are still around.
If you are not seeing any goldfinches at all in your backyard, there may be some other factors to consider.
1. Make sure your seed is fresh
Nyjer, especially when wet, becomes moldy and can harden, clogging your feeder. If the same seed has been in your feeder for more than a week or so, change it out for fresh seed. And if you are topping up your feeder, don’t just pour new seed on top of the old. Instead, mix the old and new seed together.
2. Make sure your feeder is clean
Related to the first point, a dirty feeder can put off any bird, but especially a goldfinch. And in years like this one where there are plenty of alternative food sources, they can afford to be picky.
3. Is it a new feeder?
Birds take time to acclimatize to a new feeder. Particularly if it is a new style or a new feeding location, be prepared to wait up to six weeks for goldfinches to start using it.
Do not fret – the goldfinches are alright. And do not take down your nyjer feeders. Adult goldfinches are preparing for migration and every additional food source is a help. And as the winter months approach, your nyjer feeders will become a magnet for boreal winter migrants such as pine siskins and redpolls. Remember: bird feeding is a year-round activity.