Goldfinches prefer to feed on fine seeds, but in summer they will eat insects and in winter they will eat peanuts at garden feeders. In the wider countryside that means the seeds from grasses, dandelions, ragwort, teasels and thistles - so that rough un-mowed patch at the back of your garden or side of your field is really valuable for them! Believe it or not, it's only in the last 30 years they've started coming to bird feeders before that they were very rare in gardens!
“The Birds of Ireland”, in 1900 describes the goldfinch as “Resident, widely distributed. Breeds in every county, but is rare where bird-catching is rife”. Thankfully the goldfinch is still widespread and the trapping of wild birds has been illegal in Ireland since 1931.
Goldfinches are partial migrants - some stay in Ireland for the winter, and others fly abroad. Their movements vary year-to-year depending on conditions - so if it’s cold in the UK we might get some of their birds over here, and some of the Goldfinches from the colder parts of Ireland and the UK might move south to Spain and France. So that Goldfinch on your feeder this winter might be from the hedgerow in the field at the back of the house, but it might be from much further away too!
If you would like to record the birds you see in your garden this winter then why not get involved with the Garden Bird Survey organised by BirdWatch Ireland where each week over the Winter months you make note of the highest number of birds of each species that you see in your garden.
Goldfinch-friendly plants for your garden include lavender, dandelions, sunflowers and teasels; and their preferred feeder food is sunflower hearts followed by nyger seeds, then sunflower seeds and then peanuts.
Post by Tom Broe (Cavan Branch Secretary )
Photos by Liz Mc Kenna
Information on BWI Garden Bird Survey