One of the best times of year for bird watching is during the winter months. In the non-breeding season, birds will flock together in social groups in search of food and shelter. Goldfinches are very sociable and will flock together as soon as the breeding season ends. I’ve seen lots of flocks of goldfinches over the past few weeks in the woods here at the Falls of Clyde.
If you’d like to attract these beautiful birds into your garden, you can plant one of their favourite foods, the teasel. Teasel plants are really great throughout the year, attracting insects with their purple flowers in the summer, and in the winter the seed heads dry out providing food for the goldfinch. The goldfinches’ thin beaks are ideally suited for tweezing the tiny seeds from between the spikes on the seed head.
If you don’t want to wait until next winter to have goldfinches in your garden, you might want to think about trying a nyjer feeder. Nyjer is a tiny seed which goldfinches love, along with other birds like siskins which regularly visit the nyjer feeder in my garden. The seeds are so tiny that you will need a special feeder with small holes in so that the seed doesn’t blow away. You can buy these feeders at any good garden centre or easily enough online.
Interestingly, flocks of goldfinches sometimes number thousands of birds! And the collective name for goldfinches is a ‘charm’ which comes from the old English c’irm, describing the birds twittering song. They have many common names including goldie, gold linnet, red cap, King Harry and thistle finch. One last fact for you – their scientific name is Carduelis carduelis which is derived from the Latin for a thistle, carduus.
Laura Preston, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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