My parents always had a couple of bird feeders out when I was growing up and the American Goldfinch was a common visitor. I remember their bright summer yellow colors catching my eye, even when I was a kid. It’s a common feeder bird in its range, but there are several steps you’ll want to take to attract American Goldfinches to your yard.
I started bird feeding in the winter of 2020, since then I’ve regularly had Goldfinches visiting my feeders. Here’s a snapshot I took of one of my first Goldfinch visitors on the first bird feeder I ever bought. I got this fun view through my binoculars.
First things first, here’s the range of the American Goldfinch. I’m also posting the map below. They’re year-round visitors in much of the United States. This bird is unique in that it molts twice a year: In the spring and in the fall after mating season.
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In the spring and summer, males are bright yellow. Keep your eyes peeled for their drabber brown-olive color in the winter. They’re easy to mix up with other finches. I have one American Goldfinch in a flock of House Finches that visits me every day in the winter. I always look for its lighter color and smaller size to distinguish it from the others. Here’s an example of a MUCH bigger flock at a feeder in the winter:
The American Goldfinch is a late nester, starting in July and August in most areas. Audubon says they usually nest in deciduous shrubs or trees. Nestlings leave about 2-3 weeks after hatching.
1. Attract American Goldfinches with the Right Bird Feeder
Goldfinches are tiny birds that prefer tube feeders. American Goldfinches will also eat from larger platform and hopper feeders, but I find that they are often crowded out by bigger birds on those. Getting a quality tube feeder gives them a perch to sit on with less traffic.
Tube feeders are easy to find at any hardware, home retail, and bird hobby stores.
I’ve had the best luck with two feeders for Goldfinches, specifically. The first, pictured below, is a simple tube feeder you can buy online.
Goldfinches also enjoy eating from the squirrel-buster bird feeder I have hanging out. Bonus: As the name implies…Squirrels can’t get into it. Linking it below. I highly recommend it to new bird feeders in general. I’ve had one for years as a durable option.
Goldfinches don’t migrate far, so there’s a good chance you can bring them to your yard year-round if you get a feeder (or several) they enjoy.
2. Attract American Goldfinches with their Favorite Foods
Goldfinches are seed eaters year-round. Your top two bird seed choices for the American Goldfinch are nyjer seed and sunflower chips. Be sure to get sunflower chips versus regular seeds. Goldfinches have tiny beaks and aren’t able to easily crack the shell.
For a long time, conventional wisdom said nyjer seed was the only consistent bird feed for attracting it. In my experience, Goldfinches’ top choice has shifted to sunflower chips at bird feeders.
This is great news, because no other bird seed attracts a wider variety of species than sunflower seeds. Here are a few of the other birds who enjoy eating sunflower.
- Blue Jays
- Northern Cardinals
- Pine Siskins
- Red-Bellied Woodpeckers
- Tufted Titmouse
That’s not to say that nyjer seed should be forgotten. All of my finches also love it! A fun product to try is a sock feeder. Simply fill it up with nyjer, hang it up, and you’ll have an easy option to draw in Goldfinches and other birds like Chickadees.
A key thing to remember about nyjer seed is to buy it in relatively small quantities at a time. The seed tends to lose its oil content and spoil quickly. Goldfinches won’t eat much of it after a few days of sitting in your feeder.
Besides Goldfinches, other birds that enjoy eating nyjer seed are:
- House Finches
- Pine Siskin
You can also have the best of both seed worlds by buying a finch blend from a local bird store (I can’t find any good options online) that has sunflower chips and nyjer seed. Win-win!
It’s worth noting that American Goldfinches travel a lot. You may have a dozen at your feeder for a week and none afterward. Don’t be discouraged! You aren’t doing anything wrong.
You should also clean your feeders regularly and often. This will prevent mold and bacteria from taking hold and potentially harming the Goldfinches. The Cornell Lab also recommends raking the shells and seed residue from underneath your feeders every few weeks to prevent contagious diseases for birds.
3. Have the Right Plants to Attract Goldfinches
A universal tip to attract more birds to your yard is to plant more native plants and flowers. The American Goldfinch especially loves native thistle and milkweed.
For flowers, the website BirdsandBlooms recommends planting asters, coneflowers, and sunflowers.
In general, birds like having trees and shrubs nearby as they feed for cover. Try to keep your feeding station near these things so birds have a place they can fly to in case of predators.
If a tree or shrub isn’t an option, try building up a brush pile nearby with sticks, wood and grass as a shelter option. I feed birds from my apartment balcony and hang my feeders underneath a ledge to provide cover. I also buy hanging plants in the spring and summer for some natural greenery/shelter and have a convenient conifer tree close by that birds hang out in.
4. Put out a Water Source
This is another universal tip that I share in most of my bird-attracting articles. Adding a bird bath to your yard will bring all sorts of species in with more regularity. They all need water!
This is especially important in the winter if you live in a cold state like I do (thanks, Minnesota). Most of the water sources for birds will freeze, making it hard to come by. A heated bird bath is a fantastic investment and resource to help them out.
For Goldfinches, be sure to not fill the water too high in any bird bath. They’re small birds and need space to drink and bathe!
I hope these tips help you attract oodles of American Goldfinches to your yard! Just remember: Tube or sock feeders, sunflower chips and nyjer seed, water and native plants. This combination will also bring a ton of other birds to your yard!
For more information on the American Goldfinch, here are my article sources: