Goldfinches are a favourite backyard bird found throughout southern Canada, the US and down into Mexico.
You can tell spring is coming when you see the males turning back to their bright yellow colour. American Goldfinches are the only finch who molt their feathers twice a year, once in late winter and again in late summer. The male goldfinch is bright yellow with a black forehead, small yellow to orange bill, black wings with a white bar, and a notched tail. The females are dull yellow, with a bright yellow chest and black wings with a white bar, no black forehead and a pink to yellow bill. Juveniles resemble the female. The colour of their legs, feet and bills change seasonally, lighter in the summer months and darker in the winter.
The habitat of Goldfinches include woodland edges, open fields, backyard gardens and parks. They have a bouncy flight pattern and can be seen flying in small groups, or flocks. American Goldfinches do not migrate in predictable patterns. They prefer a winter temperature averaging 0 degrees celsius. Migration depends on weather and availability of food. Some people say they don’t see goldfinches in the winter. If you feed the birds all year, you may be more likely to see them in your backyard during the winter.
Male Goldfinches only sing in the spring and summer. You will see them sitting in the tree tops singing their long-lasting musical song with many notes and phrases. They do this to attract a mate. The more they sing and the brighter yellow they are makes them more appealing to the females. An interesting fact about these finches is the more carotenoid pigments in the food they consume, the brighter yellow their feathers will be. You will recognize their perchickory call while in flight. They also have five other calls – feeding, threat, distress, alarm, and contact calls.
American Goldfinches nest later in the season compared to other birds with most nesting activity in July and August. The nest is built by the female with plant materials and held together with spider webs and caterpillar silk. She then lines the nest with thistle down. The nest is three to four inches wide and is very strong, as well as water proof ! She usually builds the nest 3 to 7 feet high in a shrub where the branches fork. The nest is shaded by overhanging leaves. Goldfinches lay 2-7 eggs which are a pale blueish-white with light brown spots around the end. Incubation is 12 to 14 days and the nestlings fledge 11 to 17 days after hatching. Goldfinches may use a nesting box that has an opening of 1 to 1 1/2 inches.
Goldfinches are easy to attract to your backyard. They will go to many styles of feeders including tube feeders, platform and hopper feeders, window feeders and sock feeders. Always ensure that the feeders are kept clean. You can offer a variety of seeds to attract these finches. Nyjer seed is a favourite, but they also enjoy Finch and Friends as well as Fine and Regular Sunflower Hearts. Did you know that Goldfinches are the vegetarians of birds, they don’t eat many insects.
If you would like to attract Goldfinches to your garden come and visit us, we’d love to help you! Urban Nature Store has a wide variety of feeders for you to choose from.
Author – Jane Paradis