The brilliant color and sing-songy voice of the American goldfinch makes it one of the most desirable backyard birds. However, the elusiveness of these wild canaries makes them a bit of a challenge to attract. Providing the basic needs of food, shelter, and water is essential in making a goldfinch haven.
The ideal goldfinch habitat is, of course, a natural one. The more attractive the habitat, the more likely you are to have frequent visitors and nesting pairs. Because goldfinches feast almost exclusively on seeds, back yards filled with their favorite seed-producing plants will invite their colorful splashes of yellow all year long.
- Poppies (spring to midsummer)
- Marigolds (spring to fall)
- Ragwort (spring to fall)
- Asclepias (early summer to early fall)
- Daisies (early summer to fall)
- Coneflowers (early summer to mid-fall)
- Asters (midsummer to fall)
- Cosmos (summer to mid-fall)
- Black oil sunflowers (summer to first frost)
- Zinnias (summer to late fall)
Planting a variety will ensure blossoms and the resulting seeds from spring through the winter, in some climates.
It is also beneficial to have trees and shrubs in your yard to attract goldfinches. These not only supplement the American goldfinch diet, but they will provide safe nesting areas. Here are a few favorites, though many native trees or shrubs also attract goldfinches:
- Arborvitaeoffers exceptional shelter within the protective evergreen foliage and yields small seed-bearing cones
- Barberryis not only appreciated by the Goldfinch, but has stunning fall coloration
- Boxwoodhas a neat appearance with little maintenance and is evergreen for year-round shelter
- Elderberrythey bloom from late spring to early fall, depending upon the cultivar
Hanging baskets filled with nesting materials, such as wool or cotton, will encourage nesting pairs to stay. Keep in mind American goldfinches nest later than most other songbirds: it’s best to leave the nesting material up until late summer. Backyard feeders are an acceptable alternative for goldfinches if a natural habitat is not an option (or as a supplement if food is in short supply). Thistle seed, a.k.a. Nyjer seed, and black oil sunflower seed, are their favorites. They won’t eat old seed, so make sure it’s not in the feeder for more than 3 weeks at a time. Patience is the key here, as it can sometimes take weeks or months for the birds to discover a new cafÃ©. Goldfinches are somewhat picky about what they eat; they are not picky about where they eat. They will gladly pick up the fallen seed on the ground or will dine out of a fly-thru or dish-type feeder.
Most importantly, don’t forget to keep fresh water available for both drinking and bathing. A clean goldfinch is a happier goldfinch and though they get a lot of moisture from the seeds they eat, a dependable source of water is a must. Birdbaths with fountains or drippers with their splashing sounds are the most attractive. For those in climates that reach freezing temperatures, heated bird baths should be considered. There is definitely nothing wrong with pampering these little ones a bitand they are so worth it.
Now sit back and enjoy your beauties!