Saturday, 13 February 2016

Goldfinches: swings and roundabouts

A pair on a Nyjer feeder (c.OOS)

A letter to the recently published Wings magazine questions the abundance of Goldfinches in gardens this winter.  We received a good, quick response from Garden Bird watchers, with some interesting observations.  We wont really have an accurate picture until all the Garden Bird Survey results are in and analysed, but its good to get a mid season response, albeit from a small sample.

Flocks of 20 and indeed up to 30 Goldfinches have been reported from regular stations around the country but 2 respondents in the Dublin suburb of Dalkey report contrasting fortunes: birds and no birds... maybe Goldfinches can pick and choose their garden, they certainly seem to share info as flocks usually build from an initial pair.

Respondents with the biggest numbers of birds cite the Goldfinches preference for Sunflower Hearts over Nyjer seeds.  Another had heard that stale Nyjer seed is unattractive to Goldies and even gives off an odour which prompts the birds to stay away.  This observer replaced his Nyjer stock and noted a return of birds.  A garden with just a line of Lavender plants, with seed heads in place, was visited by a flock.  Worth repeating the wildlife gardening mantra of 'keep your heads' as distinct from the tidy gardener who is 'off with their heads', when it comes to garden perennials and herbs.  

 I myself had a few Goldies, building up to six this winter, relying mainly on Peanuts and naturally occurring Teasel for food: the Goldies have since moved on and I have reverted to Nyjer seed in an effort to get them back, time will tell!   

Pix, c. OOS


  1. I think they are all in my garden here in Meath. I've about 30 every day feeding on Nyger and black sunflower seeds, including a leucistic one (almost all white. I'll try to attach a photo

  2. They are as abundant here as ever this winter, in Sandyford, Dublin 18. They prefer Nyjer seed to anything else, but as you point out above, if the seed is off they will ignore it and then resort to the sunflower seeds (a huge quantity of which they discard, for reasons I have yet to fathom!). When I see they've gone off the Nyger, I buy some new stuff, and they immediately start feeding on it again. Not sure how to tell when Nyger seed goes off; the birds not using it is the best indication. But sometimes that might be just because of rain getting into it. It doesn't mean your entire pack is off.