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Backyard Birding: American Goldfinch

Photo: Jongsun Lee

As summer has arrived (at least the day I was writing this) the familiar song of the goldfinch joins in the morning backyard symphony.

The male’s vibrant yellow coat contrasts with black wings, making it a welcome sight in our yards and gardens.   Many American Goldfinch are with us year-round.   Their summer colours are replaced in the fall by more of a washed-out yellow, winter attire.   The male and females look almost identical in the winter months.

While the American Robin may have already started on their second brood, the Goldfinch is one of the last birds to begin nesting, usually in July.  The tiny Goldfinch’s nest is a compact cup made from spider webs, fibers and plant down (mainly thistles and dandelion).  Their nest is so well constructed, it can even hold water.

Goldfinches are mainly seed eaters.  With the Ontario ban on lawn herbicides, the dandelion explosion keeps these small birds well fed. Attracting Goldfinches is relatively easy.  Their favorite feeder food is Nyjer seed (thistle seed).  Their second favourite is black oil sunflower seed.   You can feed them in Nyjer-specific feeders, or even feeding socks.  A bonus to feeding Nyjer seed, is the seed has been sterilized, so no growth under the feeder.

You will notice, the more feeding perches on the feeders, the more Goldfinches will be there.   When feeding Goldfinches, an important point is to have fresh seed.  So, when you find 50lbs of Nyjer seed on sale, don’t be tempted to buy it.  That is unless you have a number of feeders to use it up within a few months.

When you fill your feeder, if there is any seed still there, add some nyjer seed and shake the feeder to mix the seed.

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