The Friendly Bird on the Sunflower: the Goldfinch

Anyone who sees it and doesn’t know who it is, thinks spontaneously of an escaped exotic species: the goldfinch, with its brightly colored plumage, is one of the most colorful native songbirds. Its red face with a light beak, the dark-yellow banded edges of the wings, and its sandy-white plumage with a dark neck make the nimble finch a prominent member of the flock of birds in the park and garden. The German Nature Conservation Union named the goldfinch 2016 “Bird of the Year”, and in occidental iconography, it is a symbol of the Passion of Christ.

From Forest to Aviary Bird

The goldfinch, commonly known as the goldfinch or scientifically Carduelis carduelis, belongs to the siskin genus within the finch family. It is native to Western Europe, North Africa, and Central and Western Asia, and was naturalized by humans in Australia, New Zealand, and South America. The colorful bird was still a popular aviary bird in the recent past and was relocated as a pet. His talent for singing also ensured that people wanted him close by the goldfinch communicates with a melodic, hastily chattering chirp. In some parts of Europe, goldfinches are still caught and kept as cage birds. In Germany, the goldfinch is one of the particular protected species under the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

Colorful Grain Eater: Profile of the Goldfinch

The body length of the goldfinch is about 13 cm with a weight of about 18 grams. Its wingspan is between 21 and 25 cm. Males and females differ only minimally from each other and for the trained eye. The colors of the male are somewhat more pronounced, the head of the female is somewhat more rounded, the beak not quite as pointed. The goldfinch moves a little awkwardly on the ground, but is a skillful climber and does gymnastics on stalks, stems, and branches when foraging for food. Since the goldfinch’s diet consists mainly of seeds, it can be found in areas with heavy ruderal vegetation, i.e. areas with annual wild herbs, the seeds of which it can harvest. Preferred areas are fruit tree meadows, between which appropriate soil vegetation can spread and which offer suitable nesting sites. Since suitable habitats are becoming smaller and smaller in rural areas, the goldfinch is currently moving to settlement areas. Around 60% of the native goldfinches have now moved to the city.

A Sociable Bird

Apart from territorial behavior around the nest during the breeding season, the goldfinch is a social bird that likes company and prefers to roam around in groups of several individuals and form sleeping communities. These groups sometimes even join other finch species such as linnets or greenfinches, so that mixed flocks can be observed, especially in winter. Occasionally there are small scuffles within the group when the birds are below a minimum distance from one another. For wild birds, goldfinches can reach a considerable age at up to nine years of age. Up to seventeen years of age have been recorded in captivity.

Nesting and Breeding Business of The Goldfinch

At the end of the first year of life, the goldfinch becomes sexually mature. He forms a monogamous community with his partner animal. There are usually two breeding seasons between April and July. To build a nest, males and females look for a point as high as possible, which is both a good lookout and a safe hiding place. In the bowl-shaped nest made of roots, stalks, and moss, an average of five brown-patterned, white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for about two weeks. Meanwhile, the male guards the nest and scares away troublemakers. After hatching, it takes another two weeks before the chicks leave the nest. After one month, the branchlings are finally independent.

The Goldfinch Menu

It is no coincidence that the goldfinch got its popular name: As a seed eater, faded thistles are a coveted delicacy for them. However, it generally feeds on half-ripe and ripe seeds of grasses and wild herbs; of the latter, he also eats leafy green. Animal diet, on the other hand, only makes up a small part of his nutritional needs. It picks small insects and aphids mainly during the breeding season. When removing, crushing, and peeling seeds, he shows great skill and remarkable coordination between his pointed beak and his feet as a gripping tool. He chisels up hard-shell seeds, for example, sunflower seeds – a trick that the young animals have to copy from the adults.

The Goldfinch as a Garden Guest

One of the goldfinch’s main problems is the impoverishment of its natural habitat. In rural areas, extensive agriculture and the use of pesticides are reducing feed sources. If you want to make your garden alluring to the goldfinch, you should adapt your planting concept. Wild herbs are the basic food for finches. A bee or butterfly pasture with a flora that changes over the course of the year and many perennials is just right. In addition, one or the other sunflower and the laid table is taken care of. When it comes to year-round feeding, the goldfinch also prefers seeds, which it skillfully picks out from feed silos. Goldfinches spend a lot of time caring for their plumage and appreciate the convenience of a birdbath. Especially when the goldfinch appears in the swarm, you will have a lot of fun watching the lively flock.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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