A Birdwatcher's Guide to the Goldfinch

There is no bird I love more than the goldfinch. Seeing them at the feeders in our garden brightens my day and I consider them my lucky bird - spotting a goldfinch eating my bird food blends led me to start A Little Bird Company.

With their beautiful colouring, goldfinches are a truly distinctive bird. They mainly feed on thistle and teasel seeds, but will also eat small insects in the summer. Goldfinches enjoy a range of food at the bird feeder including niger seed and sunflower hearts.

To support goldfinches in your garden all year round, try our hard-wearing Flo Lifetime Niger Seed Feeder with its stainless steel feeding ports, and leave the stems of perennials in place during the winter - you will often see the seed heads bobbing up and down as the goldfinches feed.

Breeding season begins for the goldfinch in late April, and they lay 2-3 broods of 4-6 eggs each year. Eggs are incubated for just under a fortnight in cup-shaped nests built by the female and positioned near the end of the branches of fruit trees, and chicks fledge after 13-18 days.

Nest-building is serious business for goldfinches. They construct cup-shaped nests using twigs, grass, and moss, often hidden amidst dense vegetation or high up in trees. Goldfinches have a unique way of lining their nests with materials that possess natural insect-repellent properties. These resourceful birds incorporate aromatic plants, such as yarrow and lavender, into their nests. These plants contain natural oils that help repel parasites and insects, providing a safer and more comfortable environment for their young.

Goldfinches are a relatively common site in our British gardens, although they were in decline during Victorian times when they were captured and caged as pets. The declining number of goldfinches in the UK was one of the first priorities of the RSPB. They are highly social birds and flock in their thousands in Autumn, easily recognised by their distinctive dropping flight.

They have a beautiful, rippling song, and a group of goldfinches is known as a “charm”, which is thought to be derived either from the Latin word “carmen” meaning magical song, or the Old English word “c’irm” which means several songs sung at the same time. 

Goldfinches have long held a special place in European folklore, where they are often associated with positive symbolism and enchanting tales. In various cultures, these charming birds have been considered harbingers of good fortune and bringers of joy. In certain folk beliefs, goldfinches are thought to have a connection to the spiritual realm. They are seen as intermediaries between humans and the divine, carrying messages from the heavens to the earthly realm. 

According to European folklore, it is believed that goldfinches bring happiness and prosperity to those who encounter them. Their vibrant yellow plumage and melodious songs are seen as signs of good luck and positive energy.

In some traditions, goldfinches are associated with love and romance. They are said to be messengers of affection, symbolizing the blossoming of new relationships and the strengthening of existing bonds.