It’s hard to miss the cheerful yellow and contrasting black and white wing markings of male American goldfinches, especially when they’re crowded around your backyard bird feeder. When winter arrives, the males take on a more subtle brown to match the females. If food is plentiful, American goldfinches won’t typically migrate very far, which means their distinctive per-chick-o-ree call can be heard year-round.
At the Feeder
Goldfinches primarily eat seeds, which means they are big fans of bird feeders. Although goldfinches will eat most small seeds, they love thistle (Nyjer) and sunflower seeds. Keep goldfinches coming back by replacing uneaten food every three to four weeks. Make sure the seed stays dry. Most tube and mesh feeders are fine; a sock feeder
also works well.
Around the Backyard
Seeds may be their food of choice, but goldfinches also occasionally enjoy the bark of young twigs, fresh tree buds and maple sap. Western red cedar, elm, birch and alder trees will encourage more goldfinches to stop by for lunch. In summer, goldfinches add a few small insects to their diets, but seeds remain at the top of the menu.
In the Garden
A few favorites include asters, coneflowers, sunflowers and, of course, thistles. Goldfinches need plants for more than seeds: Milkweeds, cattails and dandelions provide fluffy nest-building material. One plant to avoid, however, is burdock, which has multiple burrs that can entangle the small birds.