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Tips for Attracting Goldfinches to Your Yard
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.
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?
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.
This is Similar to the Nyjer Feeder We Use
This 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. Droll Yankees Nyjer Feeder
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.
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.
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.
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.