How to Attract Goldfinches: Simple But Highly Effective Tips

Goldfinches are not hard to attract if you provide the right conditions in your yard.

Here’s how to attract goldfinches season after season:

  • Provide the right types of seeds for goldfinches, such as shelled sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds.
  • Plant flowers and shrubs that appeal to goldfinches, like coneflowers, zinnias, and thorny bushes.
  • Observe and learn about goldfinch behavior to attract these birds year-round and ensure their well-being.

How to Attract Goldfinches to Feeders

female goldfinch at a mesh tube feeder

Have the Right Types of Feeders

First up: Make sure you have goldfinch-friendly feeders.

Goldfinches are known to be attracted to a variety of feeders, including:

  • Tube feeders
  • Nyjer feeders
  • Finch sock feeders
  • Platform feeders

Tube, nyjer, and sock feeders are all ideal for goldfinches, while platform feeders tend to be best for the bigger species of finch.

A tube feeder is a vertical, elongated feeder that typically has multiple feeding ports. This type of feeder works well for goldfinches because it provides ample space for these small birds to perch and dine.

A nyjer feeder is a specific type of tube feeder designed to hold nyjer seeds. When filling a tube feeder, put in only enough seed to last for a few days. This helps to prevent mold growth and ensure that the seeds are consumed while still fresh.

Consider mesh tube feeders and sock feeders, too, to give goldfinches plenty of places to cling to while they feed.

Read Next: How to Attract Finches

Supply Their Favorite Seeds

goldfinch birds feeding on nyjer seed in a tube feeder

One of the most effective ways to attract goldfinches is by offering them Nyjer seed, also known as thistle seed, niger, or black seed.

This tiny, oil-rich seed is highly nutritious and favored by goldfinches, pine siskins, redpolls, and plenty of other birds.

Goldfinches are also attracted to sunflower seeds, particularly shelled sunflower seeds. They can crack open the thin shells of black-oil sunflower seeds, but they much prefer them with the husks already removed.

Shooting for a mix of these seeds is a good way to entice goldfinches in your area.

Tip: To prevent spoilage and keep the seed fresh, consider storing it in an airtight container.

Check Your Feeder Placement

In terms of placement, you should hang goldfinch feeders from a height of about 5 or 6 feet from the ground to keep predators at bay.

Place feeders near shrubs or trees to give them cover and perching options. This will help make them feel safe and secure.

Since goldfinches can be skittish, you may want to reduce wind exposure by placing the feeder in a sheltered area to help keep them comfortable while feeding.

And of course, if you want to enjoy these birds’ presence, factor in visibility—that is, make sure feeders are easily visible from a window.

Dealing with Squirrels

red squirrel on a bird feeder

If squirrels are a problem in your area, it’s crucial to take measures to prevent them from accessing your goldfinch feeders.

You can do this by:

  • Placing the feeder at least 10 feet away from any trees or structures that would allow squirrels to launch onto them.
  • Using a squirrel baffle to stop them from climbing the feeder post.
  • Selecting a feeder designed to be squirrel-proof, like a caged feeder or one with weight-activated perches that close off access to the seed when squirrels try to feed.

Read Next: How to Keep Squirrels from Climbing Bird Feeder Pole

Creating a Goldfinch-Friendly Habitat

a field of zinnia flowers in various colors

Seed-Bearing Plants

Consider growing seed-producing plants to provide a natural buffet for your feathered visitors.

Here are some great options:

  • Poppies
  • Zinnias
  • Cattails
  • Coneflowers
  • Thistles
  • Grasses
  • Asters
  • Milkweed

Yellow Flowers

Goldfinches are especially attracted to yellow flowers, as they often contain seeds that make up a significant portion of their diet.

Sunflower seeds, in particular, are a big hit among goldfinches and their friends, such as the pine siskin.

It’s also good to provide a variety of flowering plants with different blooming periods to ensure a continuous supply of food for the goldfinches throughout the season.

Trees and Shrubs

Besides plants and flowers, trees and shrubs play a crucial role in attracting goldfinches to your yard.

Dense deciduous and coniferous trees, such as alder and pine, provide them with safe perches and nesting areas. Trees like elderberry are also popular among goldfinches, as they offer both food and shelter.

Moreover, including shrubs with thorny branches can offer an extra layer of protection from predators.

Some suggested trees and shrubs to add to your goldfinch-friendly habitat are:

  • Alder
  • Pine
  • Elderberry
  • Hawthorn
  • Buttonbush
  • Western red cedar
  • Elm
  • Birch
  • Thorny bushes

Goldfinches will happily feed on these plants and may even bring their friends for a feast as well. They also occasionally enjoy the bark of young twigs, fresh tree buds, and maple sap1.

Attracting Goldfinches Year-Round

goldfinch bird sitting on a metal arch in the snow

Attracting goldfinches to your backyard can be enjoyable and rewarding, as these bright, lively birds offer beautiful sights and sounds throughout the year.

Catering to their needs and preferences will help you create a goldfinch-friendly environment in both summer and winter.

Summer Goldfinches

During the summer months, American goldfinches and lesser goldfinches can be seen across much of the United States, particularly in areas with a mix of both deciduous and coniferous trees. Pine siskins, also members of the finch family, can be found in regions like Washington.

  • Goldfinches love the seeds of native plants, such as teasel and thistle. Planting these in your yard provides a natural and attractive food source for them. Additionally, goldfinches are strict vegetarians and appreciate seeds from black oil sunflower plants, which are high in healthy fats and protein.
  • Summer is also the breeding season for goldfinches, and they will be searching for suitable nesting areas. You can support their nesting activities by providing dense shrubs and trees, which offer them protection from predators. Thorny bushes can be especially beneficial for goldfinch habitat, as they add an extra layer of safety.

Winter Goldfinches

In the winter months, goldfinches have slightly different requirements but are still active and present. They may be less vibrant in color, but you can continue attracting them with the right approach.

  • During the colder months, providing a reliable food source is key. Goldfinches will appreciate feeders stocked with black oil sunflower seeds and the small seeds of native plants. Ensure your feeders are clean and filled regularly, as goldfinches can be quite choosy about the condition of their meals.
  • Furthermore, you can support their need for shelter and safety during winter by maintaining some evergreen trees and shrubs in your backyard. These plants remain dense and protective throughout the year, offering a safe haven for goldfinches to rest and relax in harsh weather conditions.

Goldfinch Nesting Needs and Behaviors

Providing the appropriate nesting materials, as well as understanding the goldfinch breeding behavior, can give you an advantage in bringing goldfinches to your yard.

Nesting Material

Goldfinches are selective when it comes to their nesting materials. To create an attractive and suitable shelter for them, consider adding the following materials to your backyard:

  • Cottonwood Fluff: This soft, white material is a favorite among goldfinches for lining their nests and can often be found in nearby cottonwood trees.
  • Grasses and Roots: Goldfinches use these materials to construct the exterior of their nests, providing stability and structure.
  • Spider Silk: This is an important component for goldfinches to bind the twigs and other materials together, creating a secure nest.

If you give them an assortment of these materials, your backyard will become an appealing nesting spot for goldfinches.

Goldfinch Breeding Behavior

Understanding goldfinch breeding behavior can help backyard birders create the perfect environment for these colorful visitors.

Here are some vital aspects of their behavior:

  • Late Breeders: Goldfinches breed later in the season compared to other species, often not starting until late June. Be patient as they may not show up in your yard until this time.
  • Strict Vegetarians: Unlike many other songbirds, goldfinches feed their chicks exclusively on plant matter, such as seeds from weeds, flowers, and grasses. Offering a tube feeder with their preferred food sources, such as thistle seeds, can enhance your chances of attracting them.
  • Nesting Sites: Goldfinches generally prefer to build their nests in secure shelters, such as tall trees or dense shrubs, away from bird feeders or areas with significant activity. Ensure your backyard has an adequate amount of shelter to provide a safe environment for them to nest.

Providing the appropriate nesting materials, understanding their breeding behavior, and ensuring your backyard has suitable food sources and nesting sites will make your outdoor space all the more appealing for these delightful winged visitors.

Caring for Goldfinches

american goldfinch drinking water from a bird bath

If you properly care for these songbirds, goldfinches will keep coming back year after year.

Here are some additional tips to care for your goldfinch friends.

Provide Fresh Water

Providing fresh water is a simple yet effective way to care for goldfinches and attract them to your yard.

Regularly fill bird baths or shallow containers with clean water for them to drink and bathe in. Not only does this help maintain the goldfinches’ health, but it also makes your backyard an attractive location for them to visit.

Adding a bird bath with a gentle dripper or fountain feature can especially draw their attention, as the splashing water sounds will pique their curiosity2. A heated bird bath is also perfect for attracting goldfinches year-round.

To encourage clean and healthy visits, be sure to clean the bird bath and surrounding perches regularly, as this helps prevent the spread of diseases among the flock.

Reduce Herbicides and Chemical Treatments

Goldfinches are sensitive to their environment, so you’ll want to reduce the use of herbicides and chemical treatments in your yard.

Their diet mainly consists of seeds from native plants, such as buttonbush, hawthorn, and weedy fields. Using chemicals not only interferes with the goldfinch diet, but it also disrupts the ecosystem in which these birds thrive.

Minimizing the use of these substances will create a more hospitable and safe environment for goldfinches.

Keep Pets in Check

As a responsible pet owner, keeping cats and dogs supervised or contained in your yard is a crucial aspect when caring for goldfinches.

These small birds are susceptible to attacks by pets, so taking measures such as keeping cats indoors or dogs on leashes can help protect goldfinches and allow them to maintain a healthy weight and undergo normal molts.

Additional Tips to Attract Goldfinches

  • Don’t forget to consider the goldfinch’s natural habitat when designing your garden. These birds are often found in weedy areas with tall grasses and native plants, so having weeds and seed heads in your garden can provide an attractive environment for goldfinches.
  • Plants such as dogwood and pine siskins can provide shelter and nesting spaces for goldfinches, attracting more of these beautiful birds to your backyard.
  • Another great accessory to attracting goldfinches is a weather guard. This protective cover can help shield your bird feeders from the elements and make it more comfortable for the goldfinches to enjoy their meal.
  • Remember, it’s important to keep your backyard birds safe. When placing your feeders and bird baths, choose locations that discourage predators while still allowing the goldfinches access to their favorite spots.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of feeders do goldfinches prefer?

Goldfinches are attracted to tube feeders with small perches, as these accommodate their small body size and feeding habits.

A mesh or nyjer feeder is also suitable as it allows goldfinches to cling and feed easily.

What seed mix will attract goldfinches to my feeder?

To attract goldfinches to your feeder, use a mix of their preferred seeds, such as nyjer (also known as thistle) and sunflower seeds.

It’s important to use fresh, clean seeds and to avoid mixes with filler seeds like millet or oats, which goldfinches do not eat.

What do goldfinches eat during winter?

During winter, goldfinches adapt their diet to the availability of food. They continue to eat seeds from grasses, weeds, flowers, and trees, and will also visit bird feeders to obtain nyjer and sunflower seeds.

Providing a consistent food source throughout winter can help sustain their energy needs.

Where should I place a goldfinch feeder for the best results?

For optimal results, place your goldfinch feeder in a sheltered location near trees or shrubs, which provide natural cover and perching spots.

The feeder should be visible from the nearby vegetation, and hanging it at a safe height (about 5-6 feet) can help protect the birds from potential predators. Maintaining a clean and accessible water source nearby is also beneficial.

Do goldfinches prefer certain types of seeds?

Yes, goldfinches have a preference for specific seeds such as nyjer and sunflower seeds. They particularly enjoy nyjer seeds from feeders, and they consume the seeds of various native plants, including thistles and coneflowers, in their natural environment.

How can I make my feeders more attractive to goldfinches?

To make your feeders attractive to goldfinches, ensure they are clean and filled with fresh, high-quality seed. In addition, consider adding a dripper or fountain to a nearby birdbath, as the sound of splashing water can entice goldfinches to visit your yard. Planting native plants that produce seeds goldfinches like, such as thistles or coneflowers, will also help attract these colorful birds.


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  2. The Spruce 2

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