The first time I saw “wild canaries” at my feeder, I thought those magnificent yellow and black birds were pet store escapees! These striking yellow birds with black wing tips were brightening up my spring backyard, perched at a black oil sunflower seed feeder. They were content to perch and eat, eat and eat for many minutes at a time, while their compatriots fluttered around them vying for a perch. I was thrilled to finally have American Goldfinches at my feeder, and soon learned that I could continue to please them by adding a Nyjer feeder to my backyard food court for birds. I continued to enjoy the dazzling plumage and amusing antics of these birds through the summer months.
American Goldfinches aren’t canaries, but they are “thistle birds”. In the wild, they rely on thistle plants for food and nest-building materials. In fact, these birds nest as late as July, long after most birds have started their families. At that time, thistle plants have seeded, providing plenty of food for their young, and there is a good availability of plant down for nest construction.
American Goldfinch parents care for their young for at least three weeks beyond the fledging stage. It is immensely entertaining to watch the antics of the adolescents as they follow their parents to my feeders and proceed to beg to be fed! What do they want to be fed? The favorites are Nyjer (a substitute for thistle) and black oil sunflower seed. In my yard I find that many young birds prefer to eat sunflower chips, which are the hulled version of black oil sunflower seed. Since the youngsters don’t have to take the shell off the seed for sunflower chips, it’s probably the equivalent of a hungry teenager’s interest in fast food (but more nutritious).
• Portland is home to American and Lesser Goldfinches.
• These birds visit nyjer or black oil sunflower feeders in groups of up to 30.
• Goldfinches use birdbaths readily, and bathe a lot!
• Males are bright yellow in spring and summer, molting to olive green in the fall. Females are camouflaged olive green all year.
• Goldfinches build their nests in trees or shrubs 4-10 feet high, near a water source.
• Their nests are so tightly woven they can temporarily hold water.
• American Goldfinches do not migrate away. Instead the males molt, resembling the females in the winter months. They eat at our feeders year ‘round.
1. Nyjer “Thistle” in a feeder designed expressly for that seed. Nyjer is a thin, black seed with a high oil content, an excellent source of nutrition for goldfinches. Offer nyjer in a “thistle stocking”, lexan plastic tubular nyjer feeder, or an appropriately-gauged metal mesh feeder. We offer several easy-to-clean feeders with lifetime warranties that you’ll want to check out.
2. A weather-protecting dome over your feeder enables goldfinches to eat during our frequent spring rain showers, and helps keep the seed dry. Fresh, dry nyjer seed is much preferred.
3. Water! Goldfinches are birds that love to bathe!
4. During nesting season they are enthusiastic users of the pygora goat fleece nesting material and/or raw cotton nesting material that we hang near our bird feeders.