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.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

When goldfinch nest

I have not seen a goldfinch at my feeders recently, are they nesting? ~ East Lansing

Summer female on left and male on right
Actually American Goldfinches don’t nest until late in the summer. Michigan is lucky to see goldfinches year-round. In the spring goldfinch males exchange their dull olive green plumage for their striking yellow and black coloring. The female’s dull yellow-brown shade also brightens slightly during the summer.

So where are your goldfinches? They are probably gorging on fresh leaves and weed seeds. The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a bird of many aliases: wild canary, yellowbird, lettuce bird, and thistle bird, just to name a few. Ask a gardening enthusiast and you might hear the name “lettuce bird” due to the birds' practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable.

Another descriptive name is “thistle bird.” It has long been known that thistle plants and goldfinches are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Caruelis, is from the Latin word carduus, which means “thistle.” Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles and other flowers come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young.

The female builds a compact cup nest of fibers, grass and spider silk and lines it with plant down and hair at the end of July to September in the fork of a deciduous shrub or tree. They prefer hawthorn, serviceberry or sapling maples.  

So to keep these beautiful bright songbirds visiting your yard be sure to offer fresh Nyjer® (thistle) seed and keep your feeders clean. Goldfinches can be very finicky but their bright color and beautiful song make them well worth the effort to try and please.

Related articles:
What is Nyger Thistle? http://t.co/Gg2AxQg
Where are my finches? http://t.co/FRqa7eo
Goldfinch colors: Why aren't all the goldfinches yellow? http://t.co/c57skHi
Is There a Way to Attract More Goldfinches to My Yard? http://t.co/RB1cqWf

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