Saturday, June 24, 2023

Irresistible! Attract American Goldfinches to Your Feeder

American Goldfinches are the bird equivalent of a bright yellow sunflower! Showy and desirable.

These are one of the favorite feeder birds throughout the United States. They arrive in the northern states in spring and remain through the fall. Southward, they are year-round visitors to bird feeders, but molt into a dull plumage for winter.

How do you attract American Goldfinches to your feeder? Follow these suggestions to attract American Goldfinches to your yard.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch in breeding plumage. Greg Gillson

Why attract American Goldfinches to your bird feeder?

Tiny and colorful, American Goldfinches provide a welcome splash of color at your bird feeder.

Goldfinches don't take over a bird feeder, as some other larger birds. They squabble a bit but don't chase away other birds. They are used to feeding in flocks and do so at your feeder throughout the year.

They are easy to attract to your feeders. They only eat certain seeds. You can attract them without attracting other birds, if you wish.

They have bright, cheerful, twittering calls and songs. 

For all these reasons and more, people who feed birds love to have American Goldfinches as regular visitors.

Photo of American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch in winter plumage

What foods will attract American Goldfinches to your feeder?

American Goldfinches are granivores. They only eat small seeds.

American Goldfinches love to eat black oil sunflower seeds (Amazon affiliate link). They prefer to eat these from the shell. So there's no need to buy more expensive hulled sunflowers or sunflower chips.

The other seed that American Goldfinches love is Niger seed, trademarked as Nyjer (Amazon affiliate link), and both pronounced the same way. These small seeds are eaten almost exclusively by birds in the goldfinch family (also including siskins and redpolls).

You can also feed mixed bird seed and attract goldfinches. But they'll only eat the sunflower seeds. They may toss out the other seeds and grains.

The best mixed bird seed that I have found is Wagner's Songbird Supreme (Amazon affiliate link). It is 50% sunflower seeds and doesn't have any cheap filler seed that birds won't eat. This seed attracts the largest variety of birds to your feeder.

Photo of American Goldfinch
Juvenile plumage of American Goldfinch in fall.

What kind of feeders do American Goldfinches like?

American Goldfinches prefer to eat from tube feeders. These feeders with their smaller perches discourage larger birds. You may see these advertised as finch feeders.

I really love the way my iBorn tube feeder (Amazon affiliate link) looks, with it's copper top.  A screwdriver takes off the lower perch and opens it up for cleaning. This feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds attracts all types of finches, chickadees, and nuthatches. The smaller perches and lack of tray mean that you'll have fewer House Sparrows, Starlings, Doves, and Jays at this feeder.

If you are feeding Niger seed, then you need to purchase either a thistle sock or thistle feeder. Here is a page from Amazon with a bunch of types of thistle feeders to choose from. These are affiliate links. That means that I earn a small commission from items you buy there. And it doesn't cost you anything more. That helps support this website. I appreciate it very much! (And, in case you're wondering, I am required by law to tell you this information.)

I created this YouTube video to accompany this article. My YouTube channel discusses birds, bird watching, and bird identification. Check it out if this interests you.

Where to place your bird feeder for American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches aren't too picky about where you place their bird feeder. They like small bushy trees separated by open spaces.

Perhaps the best location would be to place your tube feeder hanging from a branch about 5 feet high. This keeps them up above any cats that might stop by. Then they can fly up higher in the tree if they feel threatened.

You'll want to see and enjoy your bright yellow goldfinches. So you'll want to make sure you have a clear view of the feeder out your window from your favorite easy chair!

If you don't have a tree placed strategically in view from your window, then set up a sturdy shepherd's hook designed to hold bird feeders. Check your home and garden center for a solid metal shepherd's hook about 90 inches tall. This allows tines to pound into the ground and a tube feeder to hang down from it, and still be 4 feet above the ground.

Photo of American Goldfinch
Female American Goldfinch

How else can you attract American Goldfinches to your yard?

American Goldfinches are also attracted to bird baths and fountains. Any water feature you can add to your yard will probably interest them.

American Goldfinches love to eat the tiny seeds found in dandelions and thistles. They will come to your garden for sunflowers and other flowers in the daisy, aster group. 

The goldfinches also line their nests with thistledown and similar plant material. They build cup nests in willows and wild rose and other low bushy trees.

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Photo of American Goldfinch

Problems with American Goldfinches: If you have attracted too many to your feeder

Sometimes, in winter, hordes of finches catch a communicable finch disease. This can be spread at feeders.

Then, local wildlife officials may request people to stop feeding birds for a time. This announcement often appears on the daily local news channels. 

This doesn't often happen with goldfinches. But if it does, stop all feeding of mixed seeds, sunflower seeds, and Niger seed. Take down your feeders and clean them with bleach.

Likewise, if you see dead or lethargic birds around your feeder, do the same. Keep the feeders down for 2 or 3 weeks.

Alternatively, you may have a small bird-eating hawk take up residence near your feeders. They may pick off 3 or more small birds per day. This may be another reason you may want to stop feeding for a couple of weeks. Then the hawk will move on.

As mentioned, goldfinches only eat seeds. One common food that attracts birds, but not goldfinches, is suet.

For my home feeders, I always purchase St Albans Bay Suet blocks (Amazon affiliate link). It comes in several flavors, including peanut and berry. They fit in required special suet cages, which are a type of bird feeder. 

I bought a Nature's Way Upside-down suet feeder (Amazon affiliate link) a couple years ago and have been very happy with it. Chickadees, nuthatches, bushtits, and woodpeckers eat from it easily. But starlings, blackbirds, and jays can't hang upside down to get at the suet.

Would you like to learn more about American Goldfinches? I created this video as a humorous look at these wonderful birds. My YouTube channel discusses birds and bird watching. Check it out. Thanks!

American Goldfinch FAQ

Ask questions in the comments below about attracting and feeding American Goldfinches and I'll add the answer here!


Why aren't birds coming to your feeder?

3-part article on American Goldfinches

First in series: Irresistible! Attract Mourning Doves to your feeder

Next in series: Irresistible! Attract White-crowned Sparrows to your feeder

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January 2023: Thank you so much for visiting! I am working on a YouTube channel on birds and bird watching. Check it out here:


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As an Amazon Associate I earn commissions from qualifying purchases.

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