About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Finch feeder that doesn't lose seed.

We have recently put out a golden finch feeder that is about 18 inches tall and 3 inches in diameter with 6 perches. We are thrilled that it is being heavily populated but am wondering if I need to get a second feeder because there are so many finches that they are fighting for the perches. Is this normal? Also, they sure are messy! Is the mess on the ground thistle shell or waste from the fighting?

Excellent, excellent questions! I love the happy, warm, song of the goldfinches especially in the cold months. I started with one finch feeder and now have five. It’s not uncommon for flocks of finches to flutter down from the tops of trees to wait for their turn at the feeder. Or as you noticed, announce to a fellow feathered friend their time is up and push their way in to feed.

We always have a lot of finches but this year customers have been reporting an increase in the numbers of American Goldfinches as well as an irruption of several other bird species. Canada’s natural seed crops were horrible last year and lots of birds that usually like to winter further north have ventured south to find food.

Because of this increased traffic it is very important to keep your feeders clean. These flocks of birds are going to be stressed and susceptible to disease. Feeders should be cleaned at least once a month, year round. Disassemble feeders and immerse them completely for three minutes in a mild one part vinegar to nine parts water solution. Scrub with brushes (we have these), rinse thoroughly, and let air dry. Or Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing - will clean your feeder for $5.00.

Another tip is that if the finches stop eating after the feeder is half empty; don't wait for them to finish their plate because they won't. Goldfinches are notorious for leaving a tube feeder half full. To keep your birds happy you have to empty the older seed (if it's still good) into a different container, fill the bottom of your feeder with new seed and top it off with the older seed. The birds will probably eat down to that certain level again and you'll have to repeat the process.

Mesh feeders are my favorite!
And now to the mess. Nyjer® (thistle) is a tiny black birdseed cultivated in Asia and Africa that is high in calories and oil content, and loved by American Goldfinches. Nyjer® does not sprout weeds and is not related to the purple, prickly, Canada thistle weed.

Unfortunately Nyjer® has a lot of shell. The finches use their bills to twist the seed and sip the oil and then drop the shell. What looks like wasted seed on the ground is probably just tiny shells. If any seed does happen to fall you may see Mourning Doves or Juncos picking out any leftovers.

I like to use straight Nyjer® (thistle) in my feeders. The squirrels don’t bother the feeders and I know the goldfinches love this seed. Don’t use any finch blends with canary seed, rape seed or flax seed. In feeder studies these seeds along with milo, oats and wheat were found to be the least attractive to birds and will be tossed to the ground.


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1 comment:

Lisa Oliver said...

Great article, thank you! As I am gazing out my window at my finch feeder I find it ironic that all of the perches are full and beneath them, on the ground, are two Doves and three Juncos. Maybe wee will go for that second feeder after all, we are really looking forward to watching the Goldfinches brighten up for the spring and summer. Thanks again!