Small Birds, Big Payoff

GoldfinchPerforming a variety of aerial acrobatics, goldfinches seem destined more for the Big Top than the backyard. As they swoop from one invisible peak to another, you’re reminded of a certain circus counterpart who could also “fly through the air with the greatest of ease.” But as exciting as these daredevil flights are, they’re only part of what make a goldfinch worth watching.

Goldfinches live throughout the United States and southern Canada, a fact that makes attracting them to your backyard a bit easier. Though goldfinches carry the reputation of being finicky eaters, you’ll have no problem finding a suitable offering that will please their palate. Goldfinches love to eat fresh, dry Nyjer® (thistle).

Occasionally larger birds can intimidate and scare off potential goldfinch visitors. If there’s a problem with other small birds taking up space, some feeders can be turned upside down to accommodate agile goldfinches that have no problem eating upside down.

In early fall, the male goldfinches molt into duller winter colors that resemble the female's soft olive green and subdued yellow tones. And just when it seems as though winter will last forever, the male goldfinch forecasts spring’s arrival with the reappearance of its glamorous buttery yellow. Male or female, the goldfinch’s striking features are always pleasing to the eye and make any backyard distinctly more colorful.

American Goldfinches do not nest until mid- to late-summer, long after most birds have started their families. In July and August, after the male has serenaded the female with canary-like songs, goldfinches begin to nest for the first and only time of the year. The location of the nest is usually fi ve to 10 feet high in trees or shrubs and often near a water source. The delay in nesting affords bird enthusiasts the opportunity to focus their attention on goldfinches during this exciting time of song and activity, especially since other birds are less active because of their new family lives.