Member of Fringillidae (Finch) family
This small finch is strikingly colourful with a bright red face, golden brown body and bright yellow wing bars. It is noticeably more slender and dainty than its chaffinch and greenfinch relatives. They have a delightful liquid twittering song and call which is what usually first attracts you to their presence.
They can be found where there are scattered bushes and trees, rough ground with thistles and other seeding plants. They are year round residents, but are absent from the extreme north-west. They are even now common in Australasia after being introduced by settlers.
In winter many goldfinches gather in groups of up to 40 and are collectively known as a ‘charm’ some will even migrate as far south as Spain
What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them
The goldfinch’s preferred food is small seeds such as those from thistles and teasels, but insects are also taken when feeding young.
They will regularly visits bird feeders in winter and particularly love the small black seed of niger which are rich in oil. With their agility and fine beaks they can extract the seed easily from specially designed feeders for these tiny seeds.
Where They Live & How You Can Help Them
Goldfinches are sociable, often breeding in loose colonies, they will nest in the outer twigs of tall leafy trees, or even in bamboo, laying four to six eggs, which hatch in 11–14 days. The cup-shaped nest is built by the female with moss, grass and lichen, and lined with wool and plant down
In a large garden it could be possible to leave a wild scrubby area that may provide a good nesting site. Also in the spring they will gather nesting material if you leave out pet hair or natural wool. Try our nesting spiral if you don’t have a dog (or any sheep!)
Because of the thistle seeds it eats, in Christian symbolism the goldfinch is associated with Christ’s Passion and his crown of thorns.
Thanks to David Pitman for writing about the Top Garden Birds and John Harding for the photos