The American Goldfinch is without doubt one of the most favorite backyard birds in the U.S. and Canada. It is one of Birds and Blooms Magazine’s ‘Most Wanted Birds’ as found in their surveys. This species is found throughout almost all of the lower U.S. states and through parts of Canada though in different seasons in far north and far south. And they love to come to our feeders both for niger (often called thistle) seed and sunflower seed (black oil type preferred).
As much as I enjoy watching American Goldfinch at my feeders, I find it even more gratifying when I can grow sunflowers so these birds can feed naturally on the seed heads of these plants. Their sharp little claws are built for clinging to the plant as they literally gobble up the sunflowers seeds as can be seen in these photos of a male I photographed just this week. They look like they truly enjoy feeding with their heads upside down as they pull the ripened seeds from the plant.
Listen here to any of a number of songs and calls of this species from Audubon Guides. There are differences in various regions so they have songs and calls from some different states so you can see if you recognize your local goldfinch sounds.
I like to grown native sunflowers since native plants are most adapted not only to our climate and soil conditions but both the birds and pollinators that have co-evolved with these native plants. I have been growing Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus L) , a species that is native throughout the lower 48 states.
Next year I will probably plant some Lemon Queen Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), which is a cultivar of the native plant, because they have been found to be attractive to bees (planting for bees pays off with better plant pollination) and a manageable in size. The Great Sunflower Project, the group that runs the Great Backyard Bee Count that I wrote about in a recent blog, also collects data on sunflower growth (referred to as phenology) and it can be fun to provide data on your sunflowers to be used in their citizen science project.
Female American Goldfinch are not as boldly colored as the males because they many other bird species it is the male who has to ‘woo’ the ladies with his bright plumage and wonderful songs, proof that he is strong and healthy and thus a good choice for the father of their offspring. And females do not want to attract attention with bright coloring when they are nesting, a protection for them and their young.
Do you feed American Goldfinch in your yard?
Do you plant sunflowers in your yard for the American Goldfinch?