Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) are stunning and unmistakeable birds. Their heads are striped in red, white and black and their breasts feature splashes of rich chestnut. Goldfinches also boast speckled wings, tipped with black and completed by the gold stripes which give these birds their name. You will see or hear them in gardens, parks, woodland, heathland and farmland. They are treasured for their beautiful looks but also their appealing song. Smaller than greenfinches, goldfinches are roughly 14cm in length and they have wingspans of 23-25cms.
The goldfinch possesses an appealing rambling twitter. At one time goldfinches were commonly kept as caged birds because of their pleasant song and colourful appearance.
What is the goldfinch’s distribution and population?
The number of goldfinches in the UK has increased dramatically in recent years. Indeed, the BTO have reported that the population rose by 80% between 2002 and 2012. It isn’t entirely understood why this might have happened, but it is believed that garden bird feeders may have played an important role. Goldfinches have spread northwards in the UK, perhaps as a result of climate change, and are now only absent from mountains and moorland. There are thought to be 1,200,000 breeding pairs in the UK and the goldfinch is not of conservation concern.
The goldfinch population has largely recovered after it went into sharp decline in the 1970’s possibly due to the increase in the commercial use of herbicides. There are currently over 600,000 goldfinches in the UK during the spring and summer months. Some of these birds migrate to south-western Europe in the winter. More females than males migrate and may not do so every year. These birds remain threatened by new agricultural practices and are subject to a Medium BTO alert.
Goldfinches can be seen in all areas of the UK Except the far north and west of Scotland.
If you would like to enjoy more sightings of goldfinches in your own garden then invest in njger seed or sunflower hearts for your bird feeders. This goldfinch food is sure to attract more birds to your garden.
What do goldfinches eat?
These birds relish small seeds, especially from ragwort, dandelions and teasels. They will also feed on invertebrates and are regular visitors to bird feeders. Goldfinches feed on a variety of tree seeds including alder and birch. They also enjoy thistle and dandelion seeds. If you would like to attract goldfinches to your garden then you should offer niger seed. This is a firm favourite with goldfinches and is the seed of the African Yellow Daisy. It is not the seed of a thistle which is a common misconception. also make for excellent goldfinch food. More and more goldfinches are turning to garden bird feeders as a source of food. This could be because their natural sources of food are in decline or because more garden owners are offering the niger seed and sunflower hearts that they most enjoy.
Where do goldcrests nest?
Goldfinches like to nest in areas with scattered trees and shrubs. They are known to favour fruit trees and often form loose colonies. The nests are constructed from grasses, moss, roots and lichens, interwoven with wool and hair. They are usually positioned a fair distance from the ground but can also be found in hedges. The cup of the nest is quite deep in relation to its width. Breeding tends to begin in April and a pair may have two or even three broods. Goldfinches lay 4-6 eggs and only the female incubates them. Chicks hatch after 12-13 days and fledge after 13-18 days.
Did you know?
A flock of goldfinches is known as a charm. In Tudor times this attractive bird was known as a King Harry’s Red Cap due to its colourful and regal looking plumage. The Anglo-Saxons referred to the birds as thistle tweakers as they used their long beaks to feed on the seeds of ragwort and thistles. The popularity of goldfinches as cage birds in Victorian Britain led to so many being trapped that the wild population crashed.