Look at these golden beauties! Who wouldn’t want them all over their garden!
We started our birding odyssey with two feeders to draw the cardinals who already lurked in our neighborhood to our yard – then we added water to lure in more birds, and get them to spend more time in the yard.We also worked on garden plans to include plants likely to attract and appeal to birds (LINK)
That led to a regular crowd of birds, which was neat, but I wanted to attract new species of birds I had never seen in our yard, or even in our neighborhood – I decided to start with goldfinches, because they’re SO pretty and utterly charming.
Goldfinches love to snack at seed feeders and they also love seed rich flowers, like coneflowers and black eyed susans. Their favorite nosh is Nyjer seed, a fine, imported thistle seed, though they also enjoy other small seeds. Successful backyard birders who offered Nyjer seed could boast of feeders covered in flocks of goldfinches, and since I wanted finches, I needed the Nyjer. Our other two bird feeders were intended for larger food (sunflower seeds and nuts), so I started my journey to finchdom by adding a third feeder, one especially for fine Nyjer seed.
I bought this feeder, and this Nyjer seed, on Amazon, and it’s been excellent. Note here please that I’m an Amazon Affiliate, and any purchases you make from Amazon by clicking on one of my links will cause Amazon to share a part of the sale with me. More information in my Affiliate Policy.
It’s a long tube (hence the name) made from fine mesh. Finches are clingy – they like to hang around in all kinds of positions while they eat (this is super entertaining to watch), and the fine mesh allows for maximum feeding surface with minimal seed spillage. Seed conservation is important because finches like to hang out in larger flocks and nyjer seed is pricey!
The feeder and seed arrived, I filled the feeder (I recommend using a funnel, the seed is very, very fine) put them near a patch of black eyed susans, figuring their seed cones and bright color might help. There’s some unofficial belief that goldfinches are drawn to yellow flowers, and I figured I’d take any help I could get, especially since I’d seen Mr. Goldfinch on the susans a couple of times.
The new feeder brought in some new birds – I did not realize it at first, but it was already drawing finches! House finches, whose females are a drab brown and who I mistook for one of the endless varieties of sparrows. It wasn’t until I saw a few male house finches, seen below with their charming red heads, that I realized what species they were.
The new bird activity was exciting, especially a couple days later, when a lone male goldfinch paused briefly on a clump of black-eyed susans and contemplated the new tube feeder! He was practically glowing, such a bright yellow that he seemed almost fake. He lingered for a moment, looked at the crowded feeder and went on his way. I was so excited to have seen him, and for him to have seen the feeder – I crossed my fingers that he’d come back soon, and bring some pals.
He made a couple more fleeting visits over the next week, never staying long. I began to worry I’d never get the goldfinches to sample the nyjer, and decided I’d better try some things to get their attention and appetites.
Like my other feeders, I sprinkled some seed on the ground under it to help attract attention. Annoyingly, the first takers were pigeons, and irritatingly, one of the cardinals – obviously, the birds weren’t paying attention to which seed and feeder they were supposed to like! However, the big birds quickly got tired of trying to perch on the little feeder and went back to the other options.
I had a good week of feeding house finchces, with occasional glimpses of the goldfinch, and I enjoyed having these funny and sociable birds around. Still, I wanted to see the goldfinch enjoying that thistle seed with his drabber cousins and nothing seemed to be enticing him to do more than flit through for a few seconds. In a final gambit, I moved the nyjer feeder a little further from the other feeders, to see if getting a bit more space would make the difference, since he seemed put off by the crowds.
It must have worked because the very next day, I snuck out to the yard with my newly refurbished dslr to try my hand at being a birder paparazzi and there was the goldfinch, on the nyjer feeder, happily snacking away. What a treat for my first time out with the big camera! He obliged me by sticking around and eating for several minutes. And to my great delight, he brought his lady friend around a couple of days later. These days, there are usually 2-4 goldfinches all over the feeder, and they’ve taken to hanging around and singing in our trees in between meals.
So, to bullet,here’s five tips for attracting goldfinches to my feeder:
1 – Put out a feeder for smaller seeds, and one for Nyjer seeds, to give two Finch-preferred food options.
2 – Provide some space between the feeders. It took moving the Nyjer feeder about 12 feet away from the other feeders and the birdbath to give the goldfinches a less crowded feeding area before they started using the feeder.
3 – Use bright colored flowers, especially those with seed cones, to attract their attention. Goldfinches like bright colors and perching on the flowers to snack on their seeds.
4 – Be sure to keep the feeders full – Finch like to perch all kinds of crazy ways while they eat, and a long tube full of seed gives the most room for the largest number of birds to eat.
5 – Keep bigger birds out of the finches way by putting larger feeders with larger seeds out. Just be sure to leave plenty of room (at least 10 feet) between the feeders.