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~ The American Goldfinch ~

This flashing flutter of yellow is welcome in every garden for its bright color and whistling song. Inordinately fond of thistle (nyger) seed, just hang the right feeder and the right seeds, and the birds are sure to come, unless you live in downtown Toronto. The birds prefer a feeder hung from a sheltered tree branch, surrounded by adundant hidden perches to sit and wait for their turn. Hang the feeder early in the spring; the goldfinches arrive at a time were the males have not yet molted into their yellow, nuptial plumage, and are a drab olive-green. Expect a population explosion following the coming of age of the fledglings, which occurs in late July to early August. Keep the feeder up until the birds stop coming in the fall, when the males have reverted back to the olive green.

Nests are cup-shaped, and very tightly woven with grasses and stems, with an inside lining of spider web, fine vegetable fibers such as those sloughed off by bullrushes. They are very durable and will not be destroyed by winter conditions, and such abandoned nests can be used for floral arrangements.

American goldfinches are very fond of small sunflower seeds. Most horticultural varieties of sunflowers, except the giant varieties, have such small, thin-shelled seeds. The birds will perch on the flower heads to eat the seeds from, a pretty sight indeed. Well, that's if the squirrels don't mow down the sunflowers! American Goldfinches will also consume seed from Echineacea purpurea, the Purple Cone Flower.

One year, I noticed a sudden departure of the goldfinches earlier than expected, in September. After two weeks without visitors, I decided it was time to bring the feeders back in. But it was plain to see why the birds had left so abruptly: a pesky squirrel had methodically chewed off every single plastic perch from each of my four feeders! I purchased metal perches from Perky Pet, as they conveniently sell replacement parts.

Recommended Feeder

Upside-down feeders are preferred as they prevent sparrows from pilfering the expensive seeds. Plastic perches may be chewed off by squirrels, therefore metal is highly recommended.

Some thistle feeders come with a tray that retains spilled seed, inviting other songbirds that are fond of thistle, such as house sparrows, purple finches and sparrows. Unless there is thick grass beneath the feeder, seed spilled on the ground will delight the Mourning Doves. One chickadee in my garden has figured out a way to eat upside-down from this feeder as well... adorable.

American Goldfinch Links

The Blue Jay's Garden - Canadian mail order source for thistle feeders.
PBS BirdWatch - Profile of the species.
USGS - From the US Geological Survey.
Familiar Birds - Jam-packed with information, highly recommended.

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