Goldfinches are one of the UK’s prettiest birds distinguished easily by their brilliant colours.
Goldfinches are approximately 14cm long with a wingspan of up to 16cm and they weigh about 20g. They have distinctive red faces, with a white patch at the side of their heads and black towards the back. The body is brown with yellow marks on the wings, and black tails.
Goldfinches have sharp pointed beaks ideal for eating seeds, as well as dandelions and thistles. Young goldfinches are fed on insects.
Goldfinches are found all over Europe, North Africa and some parts of Asia. They have also been introduced to the America and Australasia. You will find them in a range of habitats including woodland, orchards, parks, gardens and other areas occupied by humans.
You will notice them by their characteristic bouncy flight and are usually found in pairs during the breeding season and in large flocks outside it.
The goldfinch nest is compact and neatly built from moss, lichens and grass. They lay two or three clutches of reddish patterned eggs which incubate for 12-13 days.
In the 19th century goldfinches were often captured and kept as song birds – they call is a pretty tinkling melody but they are now a protected bird in the UK. During medieval times goldfinches were seen as a charm that could ward off the plague because they symoblised endurance and passion and were considered a ‘saviour’ bird. It is because of this that the collective noun for goldfinches is a charm.
If you want to encourage goldfinches into your garden they you may be interested in feeding them niger seed in a special Goldfinch Flocker. Niger seed is similar to the thistle seed that they naturally eat and is rich in oil and other nutrients essential for their health.