They’re the last ones of the season to nest and raise their young, they’re also the only ones who molt twice per year. It really puts goldfinches in a class of their own. It’s the busy season for them, feeding the tiny black seed almost exclusively to babies. During the year, spells of non-activity may be common around nyjer feeders… but not now!
If you offer nyjer or thistle seed year-round, chances are great these birds will stick around. They won’t nest in a birdhouse, but prefer mature trees and shrubs for building their digs. Considered resident birds, in winter you’ll see dull brown-olive plumage, but their sweet song will still grace the garden on the dreariest days. A fresh water source will further entice these friendly fliers.
A fickle seed nyjer can be, it must be fresh for the birds to partake. Should the seed sit in your feeder too long, it may become moldy or rancid and they won’t touch it. One of the benefits of this long tube feeder is the ability to fill it from both ends. By alternating top and bottom refills, there’s no way for older seed to accumulate at the bottom like most feeders.
And the last benefit of thistle? It won’t germinate! You’ll never see a nasty weed below these feeders. So fill it up, keep seed fresh, offer a bathing spot and American goldfinches are bound to claim your garden as home sweet home!
It may be officially summer, but the tail end of spring nesting season is still going strong. Goldfinches are just starting to nest now, which means you’ll be seeing a whole lot of yellow at thistle feeders in the next 2-3 months.
If you’re not offering thistle yet, you may be missing out! The American Goldfinch is a favored backyard songbird as their summer plumage, friendly disposition and sweet song are simply a pleasure to have around the garden. And unlike other birdseed, thistle seed won’t germinate… which is also a pleasure in the garden 🙂
Goldfinches don’t use birdhouses, so there’s no luring them in with that. They’ll raise their broods in mature hedges or trees, constructing nests of woven plant fibers and down. You can encourage them with some nesting materials placed in the vicinity of thistle feeders. They’re partial to Hummer Helper, the hummingbird nesting material, feathers and other fibrous nest offerings.
Unlike some more aggressive birds, goldfinches are quite demure, they’d rather fly off than fight for a spot at the feeder. This where lots of perches, or an all-over feeding space to accommodate them are ideal. Thistle socks are another great choice for goldfinches’ busy time of year. You can easily offer several different feeding spots, without spending a whole lot! Parents will feed babies thistle seed almost exclusively at first, sometimes mixed with finely chopped sunflower bits, you’ll see finches consuming this seed mix too.
As always, fresh water is critical to any bird’s environment. Keeping your bird bath clean is important stuff, for them and for your yard – especially in warm summer weather. Keep water shallow (no more than two inches) and keep it fresh… and they will come!
Oh wait, once goldfinches molt again in September they’ll turn an olive-drab color… but don’t quit feeding them. If you offer thistle year-round, their electric yellow plumage will grace your yard every summer!
Me neither as they must be covered in snow and awaiting the big thaw. So this is April? Wisconsin, Minnesota, somewhere like that. Goldfinches are already shedding worn winter feathers and turning yellow, while other common resident birds are nesting in much of the country. Once again, will winter ever end?
Yesterday brought our first butterfly to the yard, but unfortunately the consecutive, way below normal night temperature this year zapped established lantana that was seven years old. You could always count on butterflies around those shrubs. Yes, that’s how big they were, mature shrubs.
Erratic weather is largely attributed to climate change, but many folks don’t see it that way. Mudslides, volcanoes, drought and rising sea levels to name a few effects are pretty apparent and scarily becoming the norm.
In the bluebird world, trail monitors found a record number of dead bluebirds in the KY area. A very late spring being the culprit after such a rough winter… there were simply no natural food sources available. Someone was inquiring about a feeder the other day and said “no rush, it’s for next year, we don’t really feed birds in summer”. We’ve come across many folks like that, but here’s the reality: weather directly affects food sources and bird’s survival rates.
Last summer through a wicked drought, we witnessed a male cardinal feeding a fledgeling from a platform feeder containing sunflower hearts. From ground to platform and back he flew feeding his offspring. It was a strange sight, as others were reported this winter too. Cardinals hanging on suet feeders, and ground-feeding juncos up at black oil feeders. Many of the migratory birds were in for a harsh surprise upon arrival into the gulf states. No flowers, no berries, no insects, simply an equation for starvation after a long journey like that.
Closer to home, resident birds braved a very tough season as well. Feeders were non-stop with activity for the most part. Although thistle feeders didn’t see too much traffic, other feeders containing finch mixes did… and a lot! Once the olive drab fliers began their molting process, straight nyjer became goldfinches’ food of choice and overnight, thistle was and is being devoured daily!
The good news is this seed has come down in price a little bit, and if you can manage the larger bags, like 20-to 40-pounders, you’ll save even more money this summer. Unlike other birds, goldfinches feed nestlings and fledgelings thistle-almost exclusively.
So if you’re not really a “summer feeder”, you may want to rethink maybe just one or two feeders this summer… the bird families sure will thank you!
It’s a busy time for American Goldfinches as they have one of the latest breeding/nesting cycles of most backyard birds. They’re also one of very few breeds who actually molt twice a year and grow new feathers. Their electric yellow plumage is hard to miss, and most thistle feeders are seeing a good bit of traffic right now (provided the seed hasn’t gone moldy from all the rain). If yours is sitting with no takers – best to dump old seed, clean the feeder and replace with fresh thistle seed.
Innovative by design with quality construction (no cheezy plastic parts here) these 36-inch tall, large capacity thistle feeders have a cool spiral instead of perches. Featuring more feeder ports, birds really do “run the spiral” hopping from one one port to the next. This opens up space for more birds to join the party, no more waiting around for an open perch to catch some chow!
Goldfinches feed babies thistle (or nyjer) exclusively. Gross as it sounds, parents chew and prepare the tiny black seed, regurgitating it into babies’ mouths. It’s not until juveniles are out in the world that they may start to discover and eat insects. There’s a kind and quiet demeanor about this favored songbird, you’ll rarely catch them squabble at feeders. Rather than fight for a spot, most will give up and maybe try again later. Hanging a few economical thistle socks helps to alleviate this problem during peak season.
In fall when they molt again, their vibrant yellow plumage will give way to new olive drab feathers for fall and winter. It may seem like your Goldfinches have gone on their way and migrated south, but they’re still around! Keep thistle feeders out year-round to accommodate these resident birds, (and fresh water in a bath) and next summer that lemon yellow color will once again grace your yard. So popular these birds are, there’s even a birdhouse modeled after one… although typically they do nest in hedges or trees.
Recently some folks in Alexandria, LA developed an interest in backyard birding. Diving right in with a suet feeder, hopper style feeder for sunflower seed, a bird bath with mister (for summer) and two thistle feeders, the timing couldn’t have been better – for the birds and for them to witness the amazing flurry of activity this pre-spring season.
By her note above, we’re gathering they’ve got flocks of pine siskins and goldfinches in the yard right now, we sure do here in North GA.! For months thistle feeders sat, with seed going bad due to lack of activity. Then out of nowhere… tons of birds chowing down on thistle!
Also called Nyjer, thistle’s other nickname among many is “black gold” because it’s not a cheap seed to offer. A bit on the pricey side, it does have the benefit of being a non-germinating seed, one of very few seeds that won’t sprout weeds. But it’s about the only food adults will feed chicks in summer, so extra feeders (like thistle socks) and lots of seed greatly helps goldfinches thrive and flourish during their late breeding season (June and July).
Being new to the birding scene, Jan had the right idea in mind when she inquired about creating a welcoming and bird-friendly habitat in their yard. No single feeder, house, or birdbath will attract as many song birds as an overall habitat with natural food sources and shelter. And since we’re in the same planting zone, it was fairly easy to come up with a few suggestions too. Rather than re-word, and re-type the email, here’s our thoughts on creating an attractive and wildlife-friendly environment.
“OK, did some research and thinking of my own yard… here are some suggestions:
Overall: Mature trees and Shrubs are very good for attracting all winged friends as not only a food source, but shelter. Since this is an open area, I’m thinking your yard must have mature trees along the back/sides? Many birds nest in trees and shrubs as they’re not all considered “cavity-dwellers” (birdhouse users).
If you’d like some kind of height or focal point around the new area, Butterfly Bush, Viburnum, Mimosa, or a Crab Apple is a great choice. These are hearty, and provide both shelter and food (nectar or fruit). Any of the native berry-producing shrubs will also provide a great food source.
Using pots for annuals is always a great option too, for color, nectar and seeds in fall!
Petunias, Zinnias, and various salvias; most garden center plants now have tags depicting if the plants provide a food source, so just look around. There should be lots of options here! You can even save seeds in the fall for replanting in spring.
Cardinals, chickadees, finches and titmice will eat seeds of many plants. The trick is not to dead-head them in fall when the urge strikes! There are lots of perennials that fit the bill in this category: coneflower, coreopsis, seedum, black-eyed susan, goldenrod, sunflowers, mexican sunflower, native salvia-(very good), coral bells,. Again look around at the garden center, and if you’re lucky… you’ll find an employee with some knowledge on the subject!
As far as for ground cover: I think mulching the area and adding plants is a better option than a solid ground cover. You’ll want to be able to get to the feeders, bath, mister and “parts” of the landscape without stepping all over things. Also, spilled seed may sprout weeds, and it’s easier to control that if not covered solid with growth.
Day lilies are a good choice, the Stella de Oro’s are quite hearty and pretty! If you wanted something more low-growing that spreads, (full sun) try purple sheep’s burr, also called purple goose leaf. In fact this would be a beautiful contrast with yellow lilies! The Stella variety tends to stay more compact as opposed to some which grow taller and appear “lanky”. Never, ever plant creeping strawberry, or ivy…these are the bane of my existence in parts of my yard 🙁 They are also a wonderful habitat for snakes, especially if you’ll have the mister going when it’s warm!
Native salvia: I’ve got a bed of this which provides color from spring through fall. Vibrant red, there are always hummingbirds and butterflies hovering. It’s actually below one of the misters, and does well with the “extra water”. Extremely hearty, it multiplies each year, spreading roots, but does tend to grow taller, more of a back-drop. Lantana would also be a good choice if you’ve got the space for it to grow. I love perennials!
It may be helpful to actually sketch out the area on paper before planting. Drop in the plant names to get an idea. You can always do search for pics to get an idea too!
Okay… hope this helps, and as always, feel free to ping me back with questions”