I have more goldfinches in my garden than any other bird.  Goldfinches are strict vegetarians–they feed all day long on the black oil sunflower seeds and thistle seeds in my feeders.  There are often many goldfinches on a feeder at one time.  I tried so hard in the picture below to get all the goldfinches looking at the camera, but one of them always had to look away!


In the fall, goldfinches can be found eating the seeds from my Cut-Leaf Coneflowers.  They practically live on these plants all day long and I love how they cling to the tiny branches like little acrobats to get to the seeds.


The photos above were in the late fall and the winter.  In the winter, goldfinches are very drab compared to their color in the summer–particularly the males.  I think they are still beautiful.  This one sitting outside my window really brightened up the cold, grey day.


But in the summertime, the males look like this:


What a difference!  They go from drab to bright yellow with a black forehead and black wings with white markings.  They are the only finch that molts twice a year–in late winter and late summer.

Goldfinches can get a disease called Avian Conjunctivitis.  I’m no expert on this, but I have seen it in my yard.


This female goldfinch was feeding her (rather large!) baby at my feeder.  It’s not easy to see in the picture, but the mother’s eye is swollen and crusty looking.  Avian conjunctivitis is caused by a parasitic bacterium.  It actually can lead to the bird being blind because the eyes can swell shut and crust over.  My understanding is that this disease was first noted in House Finches in Washington DC in 1994.  But it can infect other species such as the American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, and Purple Finch.

You can help prevent the spread of Avian Conjuctivitis by cleaning feeders with bleach (1 part bleach to 9 parts hot water–then rinse and dry completely).  You should also clean the area under feeders by removing old seeds and droppings, and keep birdbaths clean.  It’s time for me to do all of these things–and although it’s a pain, especially in the snow and the cold, it’s only fair to the birds if you are going to attract them to your yard.  Fortunately, the picture above is the only case I’ve noticed in the birds in my yard and it was 2 1/2 years ago.

Below is one of my favorite goldfinch photos.

6984finchfbI was sitting on my front porch reading and this goldfinch landed on a plant just a few feet from me.  I was surprised it landed so close and knew that if I stood up to get my camera, it would fly away.  It sat there so long that I had to try, and I was surprised when I went inside, got my camera, returned, and it was still there.

I love having these birds in my yard!

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4 Responses to Goldfinches

  1. Crooked Tracks says:

    Your photos are fabulous. I also like these birds. They are fun to watch and the bright yellow males in the spring are spectacular!

  2. John Blair says:

    Beautiful photos, Carol! I especially like the one of the finch perched on the thistle – such a colorful photo! Also, thank you for the information on Avian Conjunctivitis. I regularly scrub out my bird bath but strangely, it never occurred to me that I should do my feeder too, so I’ll do that from now on.

  3. It had never occurred to me either, John. The ornithologist for the city of Ann Arbor gave me that tip a few years ago when I was asking her about the finch I saw with the conjunctivitis. An added benefit is that all those photos I take out the window when I’m being a lazy photographer look nicer 🙂

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