Carduelis carduelis

The Goldfinch is one of the most attractive British birds – lively, brightly coloured and with a pretty, lilting song.  Unfortunately, these characteristics meant that it was a popular caged bird in the 19th century when tens of thousands were captured in the wild.  Happily, numbers have now recovered and the goldfinch can often be seen feeding from thistle seeds and insects in fields and gardens.

Description: The Goldfinch is about 4 ¾ in (12cm) long, similar in size to a Blue Tit.  It has a black and white head with red face.  Its back is brown, with a black and white tail, and black wings with a distinctive yellow stripe.  It has a bouncy, undulating flight and can clearly be identified by the flashing of its yellow striped wings.  Both male and female are similar.  It has a liquid, tinkling song and flight call.  Outside the breeding season, Goldfinches form small family flocks, called ‘charms’.

Nesting and breeding:  The breeding season lasts from early May to August, with 2 or 3 broods.  The female builds a neat, cup-shaped nest of grass, cobwebs, moss and roots, usually in a tree or shrub.  The female then lays 5 or 6 pale blue eggs speckled with brown which hatch after about 14 days.  The nestlings and are fed by both parents, flying after about two weeks.   

Where to see them

  • Goldfinches are found throughout Britain except in mountains and moorland 
  • They are most abundant in the south. Some birds migrate to south-west Europe in winter  
  • They breed wherever there are small trees and shrubs, and feed in gardens, parks, orchards, fields and woodland margins 
  • What they eat

  • Goldfinches love small seeds, including thistles, teasels, dandelions and knapweed. They have quite long bills and are very lightweight so can perch on the heads of plants to feed on their seeds 
  • They will also feed on some fruit, berries and insects
  • The best way to attract goldfinches to the garden is with niger (thistle) seed in a hanging feeder
  • Recommended Farbrook Farm foods: Niger (Nyger) Seed, Premium Wild Bird Food, Dried Mealworms.  See our SPECIAL OFFER on niger seed and feeder.
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