Hungry flocks of sociable goldfinches are a delight to watch in any backyard. Three species of goldfinches make their home in the U.S: The American Goldfinch, the brightest of the three, inhabits most parts of the U.S., generally moving to the northern states during the mating season and to the southern states during the colder winter months. The Lesser goldfinch and the Lawrence’s goldfinch tend to inhabit the southwestern parts of the U.S.

Goldfinches have an interesting habit of mating later in the season than most birds. Most will mate from late June to September. Their late mating season is due to the food sources they prefer to give their young. This is the time of year that weed seeds and thistle begin to ripen. You will usually see more activity at your thistle feeders during the late summer as they busy themselves with mating, building their nests and raising their young…that takes a lot of energy!

Range and Habitat

Goldfinches feed primarily on weed seeds, and sometimes insects when they are available. For this reason, goldfinches love weedy fields, orchards, open woodlands, thickets and roadsides, especially if they contain patches of thistle and sunflowers.

Some Tips on Attracting Goldfinches to Your Backyard

  • Goldfinches are sociable and will visit backyard feeders in hungry flocks of 30 or more. Thistle or Nyjer seed is the preferred food of Goldfinches. Provide thistle in specially designed thistle/finch feeders. Store your thistle seed in a cool area or refrigerator to preserve it. Hang your thistle feeder at least 15 feet from other feeders and water sources. Hang it 4-5 feet in the air in a brushy area if possible. Click here to learn more about thistle seed.
  • Black oil sunflower seed is also enjoyed by goldfinches. Special black oil sunflower feeders are available to provide lots of perching space for these gregarious birds.
  • Goldfinches nest later in the season than most species. This is when their favorite food, thistle seeds ripen. The females also line their nests with the down of thistle. They tend to build their nests and mate from June through August. They absolutely love our best nest builder, so have one handy!
  • Goldfinches, which mate in monogamous pairs, like to nest in forked branches up to 30 feet high, usually near water. Females often return to the same site. The female will build a small bowl-shaped, tightly woven nest with grass, lining it with plant down.
  • A source of water is important. Goldfinches love to bathe. Offer water in a bird bath, with a dripper or mister. We have some wonderful bird baths and water drippers available.
  • Plant thistle, dandelions, sunflowers, coreopsis, cosmos, service berry, birch, hornbeam, sweet gum, mulberry, hemlock, zinnias, elm and alder as garden food plants.

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