Monday, May 18, 2009

American Goldfinch



























The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a backyard bird feeder favorite. What is not to love? The males are gorgeous with their bright yellow( which comes from the carotenoid pigments from its diet) and black plumage. The females are a bit more subtle in their coloring, but pretty nonetheless. This coloring has also earned them another common name of wild canary. It will be the spring and summer mature males that have this coloring; immature males , females and winter mature males will all be the drabber more olive tone. I commonly have these at my feeders all year. Goldfinches are present in Missouri all year. In some areas of their range they will migrate, during the breeding season they will be found from Southern Canada to North Carolina, during the winter they will be found from just south of Canada to Mexico. They love nyger seed and black oil sunflower seeds. I've seen as many as 100-150 of these at feeders during the winter, especially when there are impending snow storms. It seems they sense the approaching bad weather and will gather at the feeders in large numbers as if it is their last meal. During the spring and summer I typically have 4 or 5 pairs. The males are often territorial and will chase other males away. The fights are rarely serious, and usually if you put out a couple of feeders it will resolve the issue. During nest building the males are aggressive towards any males in the area, females will also be aggressive towards other females. Once nest building is complete they will usually calm down. Goldfinches nest later than most other species, this is in part to the food they eat. In the wild thistles and other small seed bearing plants that the goldfinch loves are finally blooming. They will also use the the thistle down to line their nests. The female incubates the eggs, but she will call continually to the male. She will lay 5 to 6 bluish-white eggs approximately peanut size. The eggs hatch in 12-15 days. The young are fed regurgitated seeds by the female. They grow rapidly and in approximately 15 days they will start taking experimental flights away from the nest. If you would like to attract these gorgeous birds to your backyard, plant flowers that produce seeds they like, such as zinnia, coneflower, bee balm, and globe thistle. Also place thistle seed and black sunflower seeds in feeders, and provide fresh water.

7 comments:

  1. I live in a suburb of KC (Liberty) and have had goldfinches at my finch feeder most of the summer. About 2-3 weeks ago, they all quit coming and have not been back. Any idea why? At one time, we had as many as 10 finches on the feeder, so I can't figure out what I've done wrong.

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  2. I don't believe you've done anything wrong. Goldfinches nest later in the year than other birds, and it could be that they are busy taking care of offspring.I typically have more in the winter than any time of the year. I noticed for the past few weeks I've had none. I have noticed this phenomena each summer, it always seems to coincide with their nesting season and the native plants going to seed; like Purple Coneflowers or Purple Thistles. Make sure that there hasn't been a sudden appearance of a cat in your neighborhood, as this would also cause them to leave for safer areas. I'm almost certain they will return, possibly in larger numbers once the weather turns colder. Keep providing food,and water, and give them a few weeks and see if they return.

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  3. Thanks for the info. We have a fenced backyard and have not seen a cat in the backyard (we don't have a cat either), but you never know one could be getting in there when we aren't at home. I have a finch feeder and all I feed them is thistle seed. My father-in-law has some seed in his finch feeder that has thistle and some other seed (small white and round), and he has been having 24-25 finch on his feeder (he lives in Northern Arkansas -- Bella Vista). I also have my feeder on a 2 hook shepherd hook, with a regular bird feeder on the other hook. The disappearance of the finches coincided with my refilling of the other bird feeder and I was afraid a grackel or bluejay may have scared them off. Should I separate the finch feeder or the other feeder to a different hook?

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  4. I have finch feeders with thistle, and I usually hang them near other feeders and it doesn't seem to bother the finches. They are pretty gregarious little birds and don't seem to be easily intimidated. It could be some overly aggressive Blue Jays or grackles that are keeping your finches at bay, but I doubt it. The feeder that your father-in-law place out with mixed seed is drawing the finches only because of the thistle, or possibly black oil sunflower seeds it contains. Goldfinches don't typically eat any other seed from feeders except thistle (nyger) or black oil sunflowers. I have gotten into the habit of only putting out black oil sunflower seeds in all my feeders. I find that it helps keep the sparrows and grackles at away, as they prefer cracked corn and small seeds. Finches LOVE black oil sunflowers, and the oils it contains offers them great nutrition for the cold winter months. I'd say be patient, keep the feeder full, they will return. One winter I had over 100 in my front yard ( I finally gave up counting) It was an amazing sight for sure. Good Luck, and keep me posted as the whether or not they return.

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  5. Does the oil in nyjer seed go rancid if it's left in the sun too long. The finches (all varieties) have ignored my tube feeders for the past month, even though they're about half full. I hate to waste the stuff — it's expensive — but if it's bad, I'll toss it and refill with fresh seed.

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  6. I don't believe the oils go rancid, but if moisture gets into the feeder it will mold the seed and the birds will ignore it. They seem to know when the seed has gone bad. The feeder may need to be dumped and thoroughly cleaned with bleach/water (1 part bleach to 5 parts water), rinse well. An alternative to nyger seed would be black oil sunflowers seeds. It is somewhat cheaper, high energy food that they seem to favor in the winter.

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  7. Thank you. I'll try the bleach-water and new seed.

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