Celebrating the Goldfinch
British wildlife is incredibly diverse. It is possible to attract a variety of fascinating creatures into your garden, even if you live in an urban area. One of the more colourful and exotic looking visitors that you might be able to enjoy is the beautiful goldfinch.
Collectively called a charm, goldfinches are simply stunning with their heads striped in red, white and black and their breasts featuring splashes of rich chestnut. Goldfinches also boast speckled wings which are tipped with black and feature the gold stripes which give these birds their name.
Red Caps and Thistle Tweakers
But this gorgeous bird hasn’t always been known as the goldfinch. In Tudor times the birds were called King Harry’s Red Caps due to their colourful and rather regal looking plumage. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the birds as thistle tweakers because they could use their long beaks to feed on the seeds of ragwort and thistles.
Sights and Sounds
Goldfinches look wonderful and they sound fabulous too. The birds possess a pleasing chirrup which is heart-warming and relaxing. It should come as no surprise that these birds have proved to be an inspiration across the centuries.
Goldfinches in Literature
Donna Tartt’s bestseller The Goldfinch was certainly inspired by these birds as was romantic poet John Keats’ 1884 work “I Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill” which recounts his enjoyment of observing and listening to a goldfinch.
However, the incredible popularity of these pretty birds almost proved to be their undoing. By the late 19th century their numbers had seriously declined as so many specimens had been trapped and then sold as caged birds. The Goldfinch was declared to be an endangered species.
A Brighter Future
In recent decades, the goldfinch population in Britain has recovered significantly. This is thought to be the result of garden bird feeders which provide valuable nutrition for the winter months and so help the birds to survive in greater numbers. Goldfinches are particularly partial to niger seeds, so if you fill your bird feeders with these nutritious seeds, your garden should soon be welcoming many gorgeous goldfinches!