In its adult form, the Goldfinch is unmistakeable with its red, white and black face, plus distinct yellow wing stripe. This is a sociable bird, with small breeding colonies often formed, and outside of the breeding season nearly always seen in flocks and often with other species of finch. Along with its beautiful plumage, the Goldfinch has a delighted song which is a musical twittering of multiple notes. In gardens, the species is relatively easy to attract with niger seed and sunflower hearts.
Goldfinch diet and food
In the autumn and winter months the Goldfinch’s natural diet is made of seeds and in particular those of thistle, teasel, dandelion and other weeds, plus from alder and birch trees. In the spring and summer a wide variety of insects are also taken including aphids, caterpillars and small beetles. In gardens, the species has increasingly taken to feeding on niger seed and sunflower hearts, and indeed is now one of the commoner birds to be seen at feeding stations.
Goldfinch nesting and breeding habits
Goldfinches will often nest in small, loose colonies, with nests being built from grasses, moss, lichen, and other available materials such as wool and hair to bind the nest together. The nest is neat and well-constructed, and generally located quite high in tree branches, a tall shrub or hedgerow. The female bird builds the nest, though the male may bring materials to her. Incubation of the eggs is solely carried out by the female, though both parents feed the young. There are two to three broods each season, with a clutch size of around five eggs.
Behaviour traits of Goldfinches
Goldfinches are social and gregarious birds both in and outside the breeding season, and are rarely seen alone on garden feeders, though frequently squabble between themselves for perch position. Perhaps their most interesting behaviour is the ability to hold onto plant stems and seed heads to remove individual seeds, which they’re able to do with their exceptionally thin and pointed (for a finch) bill.
Video footage of Goldfinches
Goldfinch history and population trends
The goldfinch population has been steadily increasing over many decades (though there was a notable reduction between the mid-70s and mid-80s), with the species also extending its range more into northern Britain. This very long-term trend is probably partly due to the end of widespread persecution which the species suffered up until the 1930s, plus, and in more recent decades, its adoption of garden feeders as a major source of food. Indeed, the species has especially taken to niger seed and sunflower hearts, with this helping to improve winter survival rates.