4 Simple Ways To Attract Goldfinches! (2023)
Learning how to attract goldfinches to your yard is incredibly rewarding!
These acrobatic birds are a ton of fun to watch. Personally, I love how they can hang from almost any angle or orientation when they eat. Or watching their roller coaster flights across my backyard!
But because they are so small, goldfinches are easily scared away by larger, more aggressive birds. So to ensure you can attract goldfinches AND keep them coming back, you need to design your bird feeding station with a plan.
- Did you know there are THREE types of goldfinches that live in North America? Click HERE to learn how to identify each species!
Today, you will learn 4 proven tips that work to attract goldfinches!
If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see one right now on my feeders. Just press play below to watch my LIVE cam! 😊
Tip #1: Attract Goldfinches With THESE TWO Foods!
Interestingly, goldfinches are one of the few birds that are strict vegetarians. Forget the juicy insects and spiders that other species feast upon. These little birds ONLY eat plant matter and naturally love eating seeds from weeds, flowers, grasses, and certain types of trees.
Luckily, goldfinches are easily attracted to bird feeders as long as they are filled with foods they enjoy eating! Luckily, both of the seeds below are easy to find at many different stores or online.
A. SHELLED Sunflower Seeds:
Goldfinches LOVE eating sunflower seeds, but they like them best when already shelled. While they can crack open the thin shells of black-oil sunflower seeds, I have found they MUCH prefer to eat them with the husks already taken off. Don’t even think about using striped sunflower seeds, as these shells are WAY too thick for goldfinches.
*Nutrition Information: 40% fat, 16% protein, 20% carbohydrates
The only problem with using shelled sunflower kernels is that many other birds LOVE this food too. The list of birds includes other finches, sparrows (including the dreaded House Sparrow), cardinals, jays, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, blackbirds, and more!
B. Nyjer Seed:
Nyjer seed is an excellent food to use for attracting goldfinches!
Nyjer (also spelled niger) seeds are black, tiny, and commonly referred to as “thistle,” which can be confusing because it’s not actually related to thistle. Luckily, with Nyjer seed, you don’t have to worry about it developing into an annoying weed if it spills onto the ground, like thistle.
*Nutrition Info: 36% fat, 21% protein, 13% carbohydrates
Unfortunately, this bird seed is relatively expensive by weight when compared to other types of birdseed. But the good news is that you won’t have to refill nyjer feeders nearly as often as other feeders that contain sunflower seeds or a general bird mix.
The reason for this is that not many birds eat Nyjer seed! The list only includes some finches (goldfinches, Pine Siskin, House Finch, etc.), chickadees, and doves. Even squirrels will leave your feeders filled with Nyjer seed alone! Honestly, I think it’s just too small for these pesky rodents to mess around with.
You have to be careful when buying Nyjer seed!
Unlike most other bird seeds, Nyjer needs to be as fresh as possible. Goldfinches are incredibly picky eaters!
So, how do you know if your Nyjer seed is OK to use?
Your seed should have a slightly oily feel to it. In fact, you can even test a seed by crushing it with a hammer on a paper towel and then seeing if some oil seeps out.
In my experience, I have found that with Nyjer seeds, you typically get what you pay for. For example, I have not had luck when I find cheap Nyjer seed that looks very dry and like it has been sitting on the back of a shelf at a hardware store for three years.
Nyjer seed also spoils more quickly!
Don’t let Nyjer seed sit in your feeders uneaten for more than two weeks. This exposure to air will dry the seed out, and goldfinches will never end up eating it.
Also, pay close attention to moisture. If the Nyjer seeds get wet, then they need to be replaced.
As for storing extra Nyjer seeds, find a cool, dry spot. If done properly, the seed can actually stay fresh for up to a year! Just remember that air and moisture are enemies!
Tip #2: Use one of these goldfinch-friendly feeders!
Honestly, any bird feeder that can fit sunflower or Nyjer seeds inside of it will eventually attract goldfinches.
But, there is a big problem with this strategy!
On the hierarchy of birds that come to your feeders, goldfinches sit at the bottom.
These birds are small and non-aggressive, so they will move out of the way of basically any other species.
So I make sure to include feeders at my feeding station that ONLY goldfinches, or other small birds, can use. This ensures them a place to eat that the greedy blackbirds and jays can’t access or utilize!
Here are TWO of my favorite bird feeders that are great for goldfinches!
A. Audubon Caged Tube Feeder
Buying a caged bird feeder is the BEST way to make sure that the goldfinches you attract will have a private place to eat. These feeders work by wrapping a metal cage around a classic tube feeder, which prevents larger birds from fitting inside.
Features 4 feeding ports.
It holds about 1.25 lbs (.6 kg) of seed.
The feeder is about 15.5 inches long from top to bottom.
The cage is made of durable powder-coated metal.
As hard as they may try, grackles, starlings, and squirrels can only look at the delicious food inside!
So what’s not to like?
The metal cage works incredibly well at keeping birds out except the very smallest, like goldfinches and chickadees. Desirable medium-sized birds, such as Northern Cardinals, will NOT be able to use this style of feeder.
Also, make sure to have patience! It may take your goldfinches a little while to figure out that they can fit inside the openings.
B. Perky Pet Yellow Finch Feeder
No/No Yellow Finch Feeder View Price - Amazon
This feeder is great for attracting goldfinches because it’s made specifically for them!
First, Nyjer seed is the only food that can be used in this finc feeder. This is because the metal mesh has such tiny holes that nothing can fit through them, except for Nyjer. And as we have already discussed, there are not many birds other than goldfinches that eat this small black seed.
Second, there are no perches along the sides of this feeder. Goldfinches are one of the only species that are able to cling to the sides of the metal mesh!
As you can see, this incredible feeder discriminates against almost all birds, except for goldfinches. The only other species that I have seen using my Perky Pet Yellow Finch Feeder are chickadees.
I can’t recommend this feeder enough for attracting goldfinches. In addition, it is so much fun to watch these acrobatic birds on it, as the goldfinches cling to the sides from all angles as they eat. I have counted as many as TEN birds eating at once!
Tip #3: Plant THESE plants in your yard!
One of the best things you can do to attract goldfinches is to focus on the habitat in your yard.
- RELATED: 28 Common Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds (Native, Easy To Grow)
Naturally, these birds typically live in open, weedy fields that have lots of bushes and shrubs on the edges that provide shelter. They are also often seen in open neighborhoods and parks. Unfortunately, if you live in a forest, you probably won’t see many goldfinches.
Your goal is to design your backyard to appeal to goldfinches. Mostly, this means you need to plant as many of their favorite flowers, shrubs, and trees as possible. And the best part is that using a combination of the following plants not only will attract goldfinches but also a wide variety of other species!
One of my best tips is to let an area of your yard just grow wild! All types of wildlife will prefer this instead of having just a finely manicured lawn. In fact, one of the WORST things you can do for birds and other creatures is to have a monoculture of grass that is full of pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizer.
Here are some plants that provide food sources, nesting material, or shelter:
*Please know that the list below is in no way all-inclusive. Including every single flower, shrub, or tree that may attract goldfinches would be nearly impossible. But I did my best to find plants that work well and are relatively common to find.*
FLOWERS & GRASSES:
- Black-eyed Susans
- Joe Pye Weed
- Thistle (find native varieties)
- A wide variety of native grasses
- Milkweed (great for lining their nests)
TREES AND SHRUBS:
- Birch trees
- Elm trees
- Alder trees
- Low, dense evergreens provide shelter in winter.
To search for more recommendations, check out this Native Plant search tool on Audubon.
Tip #4: Attract goldfinches by providing water!
The final way to get goldfinches to visit your yard is to provide a constant, consistent water source.
So, how exactly do you accomplish this?
Well, unless you are lucky enough to have a stream or lake nearby, the best way to offer water is to buy a bird bath.
Honestly, there was a time when I didn’t think having a bird bath was that important, especially since they require a bit of maintenance to keep them fresh and clean.
But once I finally tried a bird bath, my opinion changed forever. Birds LOVE having a safe, clean water source. And the best part is that bird baths attract not only goldfinches but also countless other species, including many birds that typically don’t visit bird feeders.
Seriously, check out this video of a Red-shouldered Hawk at my bird bath!
When it comes to bird baths, there are HUNDREDS of options, including many different styles. To help guide your decision, here are a few additional articles that will help.
12 Best Bird Baths To Consider This Year! (I own #5)
The 6 Best HEATED Bird Baths!
- Making sure that you have unfrozen water during a cold winter is one of the greatest things you can do for your birds. I think you will be amazed at the diversity of creatures that ends up visiting.
Do you have any additional tips for attracting goldfinches?
Today, I provided multiple strategies you can use to attract these entertaining birds to your yard. We talked about the best foods and feeders, along with ways to make the surrounding habitat appealing.
I’d love to know what strategies have worked best for you?
Please leave a comment below!
My Audubon Caged Feeder works well in keeping out large birds such as bluejays and crackles and grey squirrels but does not keep red squirrels and chipmunks out. If they can access the feeder, chipmunks are a particular problem as they will fill their cheek pouches with seed, take it off to store and return again and again until they empty the feeder.
SO informative. THANK YOU
I have tons of goldfinches. I feed all the foods mentioned above. Had a bumper crop of invasive thistle but the goldfinches and bees loved it. I also have lots of coneflowers and they also like the seeds of anise hyssop.
verbena bonariensis and rudbeckia plants bring goldfinches every day to my garden, never had luck with any seeds.
Haven’t received weekly tip email to confirm to. Love your site.