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Tips for Attracting Goldfinches to Your Yard

Updated on September 24, 2015

How to Attract Goldfinches

It's easy to attract American Goldfinches to your yard if they live in your area. All you need to do is to provide the kinds of food they prefer, either from bird feeders, or from plants that grow the seeds they like to eat.

We enjoy watching these small, spirited birds when they visit our yard, with their brilliant yellow bodies, black caps, and black wings with white bands. We see these little finches at our bird feeders, or while taking a drink in our birdbath, or perching in the nearby trees. These acrobatic little birds live in our area all year.

You can find these attractive little birds throughout most of the United States and in some parts of Canada and Mexico. Depending on where you live, you might be able to see them all year as we do, or just during the summer or winter.

American Goldfinch pair at our nyjer feeder
American Goldfinch pair at our nyjer feeder | Source
American Goldfinch on giant sunflower
American Goldfinch on giant sunflower | Source

What Do Goldfinches Eat?

The American Goldfinch is particularly drawn to bird feeders filled with nyjer seed or with hulled sunflower seeds.

Nyjer (also spelled "niger") is the seed from an African yellow daisy, and has a high protein and high oil and fat content, making it a great energy source for birds. Before packaging, it is treated with high heat so it doesn't germinate (therefore it can't cause problems as an invasive species).

Sunflower seeds also provide great nutrition and energy for the birds. Goldfinches have an easier time eating sunflower seeds without the shells.

In the wild, American Goldfinches prefer seeds from various plants from the Composite family (Compositae or Asteraceae) such as sunflowers, daisies, asters, thistles, and coneflowers. They also eat milkweed seeds, and occasionally a few insects.

Goldfinches in Your Neighborhood?

Do you have American Goldfinches visit your yard?

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What Are the Best Kinds of Feeders for Goldfinches?

If you plan to put out nyjer seed, you'll need to use a feeder with small enough holes to keep the seed from falling out. Tube feeders with small holes, or small-hole mesh feeders are commonly used to hold nyjer seed. The mesh can be made from wire, or more of a cloth-type material (often called a stocking or sock feeder).

Hulled sunflower seeds can be put in feeders with larger mesh or screen openings. We've also had goldfinches come to our hopper feeder to eat a few black oil sunflower seeds, in the shell, although they much prefer the hulled seed.

Male Goldfinch at feeder in our backyard.  Photo is my own.
Male Goldfinch at feeder in our backyard. Photo is my own.

This is Similar to the Nyjer Feeder We Use

This Droll Yankees Nyjer Feeder is very similar to the one I have in our backyard, and it works very well for attracting American Goldfinches and other small clinging birds such as chickadees, redpolls, and pine siskins.

The tube is made out of sturdy U.V. stabilized polycarbonate, with 6 perches, and it is very easy to clean. I like the yellow base and top because it "coordinates" well with the goldfinch coloring.

Mesh Feeder for Goldfinches and Other Small Birds

Nyjer Magnet Mesh Bird Feeder from Duncraft.com

This innovative feeder has a flat steel Magnet Mesh surface that more finches can land on compared to regular tube feeders. Other small clinging birds can also use this feeder, such as goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, small woodpeckers, and siskins. Larger birds won't be able to find a perch here.

You can fill it with nyjer or small sunflower chips.

The frame of this feeder is made from durable poly lumber (recycled plastic from milk jugs and similar products formulated to look like wood). You won't have to worry about it warping or weathering, and it's easy to clean.

This is a 1.5 quart feeder (about 3 pounds of seed). You can also get the larger XL Nyjer Magnet Mesh Feeder 3 quart size.

Range map for American Goldfinch
Range map for American Goldfinch | Source

Do You Have Goldfinches in Your Area?

Range map and habitat

This range map shows where American Goldfinches live in North America.

  • Yellow -- Summer range
  • Green -- All year
  • Blue -- Winter range

Besides visiting backyards, they like to live in fields, orchards, and along roadsides where they can find thistles, asters, and sunflowers. You will not find them in wooded areas.

Buying Nyjer Seed and Sunflower Seeds

Most stores that carry yard and gardening equipment will also sell birdseed. I've also seen it in our local supermarkets.

It's best to buy smaller quantities of nyjer seed until you know for sure that the finches will come to your feeder. Old nyjer seed can dry out, and the birds will avoid it in favor of fresher seed in another yard.

I've also experienced (and have read corroborating evidence from Wild Birds Unlimited) that American Goldfinches are picky, and tend to avoid dirty feeders. They also stop coming if the feeder is 1/3 - 1/2 full.

Instead of topping off the feeder with new seed, WBU recommends emptying the older (but hopefully still fresh) seed into another container, adding new seed to the bottom of the feeder, then re-adding the older nyjer on top.

Hulled sunflower seeds are easier for small birds to eat than seeds with the shells.

Winter coloration for American Goldfinches
Winter coloration for American Goldfinches | Source

But What Are the Duller-Colored Birds at the Feeder?

Only the male American Goldfinches are brilliant yellow, and this is only during the spring and part of the summer. Females are a duller yellow underneath and olive green on the back, while during the winter, both sexes are a drabber, nondescript brownish-gray color. You can still identify them by their conical bills, white bars on their wings, and notched tail.

Even if they are much less colorful and vivid during the winter months, you'll still enjoy watching them as they fill up on nutritional, energy-rich seeds to keep them strong and healthy throughout the cold months.

Redpolls
Redpolls | Source

You'll Attract More Than Just Goldfinches

If you put out the feeders and bird seeds that I recommend on this page, you'll definitely attract American Goldfinches if they live in your area.

But you'll also attract many other small birds who enjoy the same kinds of food. Nyjer seed is also a favorite for other small birds such as house finches, purple finches, pine siskins, juncos, and redpolls.

Sunflower seeds, especially hulled, attract any seed-eating bird.

Image: Common Redpolls at nyjer feeder, by grandmapearl CC BY-SA 2.0

Do You See American Goldfinches in Your Yard?

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    • NuttSoRuff profile image

      NuttSoRuff 

      5 years ago

      I see some cardinals and an occasional blue jay.

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen 

      5 years ago from U.S.

      @katiecolette: Hummingbirds are delightful to see, as well as the goldfinches :-)

    • katiecolette profile image

      katiecolette 

      5 years ago

      We sure do! We have two bird feeders and are about to put a hummingbird feeder up today.

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 

      5 years ago

      I love birds and I have goldfinches coming to my garden. Congratulations for your lens, very nice.

    • nicenet profile image

      nicey 

      5 years ago

      I love birds- their colours attracts me. Thanks for the tips.

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      5 years ago from Kansas

      Have a hanging feeder full of thistle. Our goldfinches love it!

    • profile image

      topbuilderlist 

      5 years ago

      I you enjoyed the contents here! I love birds, it is so much fun to watch all the birds that come near our backyard!

    • MoneySaver89 profile image

      MoneySaver89 

      5 years ago

      I love to see wild birds in my yard, so I usually place bird feeders in different areas to attract them. However, I have never been lucky enough to attract those beautiful Goldfinches. I will have to try some of these tips to increase my chances. Thanks for this informative lens!

    • profile image

      cassieann 

      5 years ago

      I love goldfinches but we seem to have a lot of cardinals and blue jays. I don't have a feeder as of yet but I am thinking seriously about a hummingbird feeder this summer. Great lens.

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen 

      5 years ago from U.S.

      @someone111: Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed this page! Yes, it is so much fun to watch all the birds that come by!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 

      5 years ago from Diamondhead

      I am one of the lucky ones. The goldfinches choose to winter in my backyard a my bird feeders in their resort that my husband set up for them. They are fascinating to watch and the abundance of bird in our area take about 25 pound of seed per week. That include squirrel raids.

    • someone111 profile image

      someone111 

      5 years ago

      Nice lens! We love putting out finch feeder (and other feeders) out and watching all the birds that come by!

    • Nutrisimohealth profile image

      Nutrisimohealth 

      5 years ago

      Great lens!

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen 

      5 years ago from U.S.

      @Arod17: I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • Arod17 profile image

      Arod17 

      5 years ago

      Thanks for the tips and sharing. Great Lens

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen 

      5 years ago from U.S.

      @audrey07: It is indeed satisfying to see them come to our yard :-)

    • KarenHC profile imageAUTHOR

      Karen 

      5 years ago from U.S.

      @LiteraryMind: I think the four feet of snow would definitely make it harder for some of the birds to find food! It is fun to feed them during the winter -- adds some nice activity in the yard during an otherwise gray, cold, snowy day. I hope you do get goldfinches to come to your yard!

    • audrey07 profile image

      audrey07 

      5 years ago

      I live in an apartment; no yard for me to attract all these birds. But I'm sure it is very satisfying if you see them flocking to your garden.

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 

      5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I just started feeding this past winter as we had about 4 feet of snow. As it was unusual for our area, I was afraid the birds wouldn't be able to get to their usual food source. Will probably feed every winter now. I have never seen a goldfinch in our yard -- but maybe if I do what you say, I will.

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