How to Attract American Goldfinches

Fewer birds radiate summer vibes better than the American goldfinch. Sporting bright yellow plumage, black caps on their heads, and black and white wings and tails, these beauties make a bird lover's heart skip a beat. The female is a duller yellow and lacks the black head cap but she is still quite stunning. Luckily, attracting goldfinches to your yard isn't difficult.


Our first goldfinch appeared in our yard two summers ago and he took my breath away. I had only seen them in pictures, and to have one on our feeder was truly an amazing experience. I only saw him that one time that summer, but from then on it was my mission to draw them in.


Whether you're a novice bird watcher or an experienced friend to the avian world, you'll no doubt get a thrill from seeing these gorgeous songbirds in your own yard. If you haven't had much luck drawing them in yet, read on for some simple tips to coax them into your sanctuary.


An American goldfinch eating seeds from a sunflower head.
This pretty guy loves sunflower seeds.

Plant for success:


American goldfinches will readily come to bird feeders, but ours seem to prefer fresh seeds off of growing plants over feeders.


In the picture on the left, you can see this male goldfinch snacking on sunflower seeds. This volunteer black oil sunflower plant was likely put in our flowerbed by a bird or squirrel, and it provided many meals to our goldfinches through the summer. We have also planted other varieties of sunflowers that produce striped seeds, but it seems the goldfinches far prefer the plain black oil variety.


Another plant they just love is zinnias. For two summers in a row now I have added zinnias to our landscape because the pollinators including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds just love them. If you want to draw in pollinators, check out my post on that here. The goldfinches must really love their seeds as well. All summer our pair have been hanging out amongst the tall stems, picking off the petals to get to the seeds in the flower centers.


The pictures below will give you an idea of why I love zinnias so much. There is not a moment that the sun is shining that our zinnia patch is not covered up with butterflies, bees, and birds. The bright, cheery flowers add a brilliant pop of color to the front yard and they make fantastic cut flowers as well. That is if your goldfinches don't eat them all first!

Plan for babies!


While many yard birds begin gathering materials and building nests very early in the year, goldfinches nest much later. In our area, you can find them gathering nesting materials around July and into August. This is because the materials they like to use are not available before then.


Goldfinches line their nests with soft, downy seeds such as those from thistle plants. Thistle plants are considered invasive species, so you should plant those carefully. Milkweed is another good option, and for bonus points, it is also the sole food source for monarch caterpillars.


Female goldfinches have also been known to use dandelion puffs to line their nests, and I have watched them tear apart my Gerbera daisy blossoms to get the downy seeds from inside. While my daisies didn't do well after a cold and wet spell early this year, I usually keep several pots of them around the yard.


If you plant these things around your yard you are likely to send the message to parent goldfinches that your yard is a great place to raise their young. While many gardeners prefer to deadhead (remove spent blooms from plants) try to remember that these blooms contain the seeds that many birds use for food and nesting materials.


Goldfinches prefer to nest in shrubs, usually building about five to ten feet off the ground. Common trees like dogwood or fruit trees are appealing. Their nests are cup-shaped, so a bush or tree with supportive limbs and forks are sure to draw them in. If you have these things or room to plant them, they are sure to help you attract goldfinches to your yard.


Three birds in a birdbath.
Is it our turn yet?

Don't forget the water!


While goldfinches don't necessarily bathe in a birdbath as often as some species, they still need access to fresh, clean water like any living thing.


By adding a simple birdbath to your yard you can increase the number of birds of all species you attract. In this picture a female cardinal splashes while two female sparrows wait for their turn.


Make sure you keep birdbaths clean. Any contaminated water left sitting can quickly spread illnesses among the birds in your yard. Rinse and refill them daily, especially after rain. A good way to clean them without bleach is to scrub them using baking soda, vinegar, and a coarse scrub brush. Always ensure you rinse them completely before refilling.


Lastly, be patient.


It can take a little while before a new species of bird finds your yard. We have been living in our home for more than eight years now and each year we have new species. That is all part of the wonder of the bird-watching journey. As long as a bird is native to your area or migrates through your area, you will likely eventually see it. Just continue to offer its favorite things and it will find you.


The pictures below show the difference between a male and a female goldfinch. The male is in the picture on the left. Isn't he cute all fluffed up? The female is in the tree in the picture on the right. She was waiting patiently for him to return.



In my opinion, not much is more exciting than seeing my favorite birds and new species of birds show up in my yard. Knowing that we are providing an environment they return to again and again makes me happy. There really is so much joy to be found in bird-watching. You can read one of my previous posts about that here.


I hope you are able to follow these quick and simple tips to attract more American goldfinches to your own yard. When your first yellow stunners show up, please share their pictures with us. We'd love to see them!


Do you have additional tips? Please share them in the comments.


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