Get going goldies!

Get going goldies! – goldfinch behavior

Claire Miller

It’s time for these American goldfinches to get busy. Most birds build their nests in early spring. But it’s almost summer, and this male goldfinch (photo at left) and his mate are just getting started. In fact, goldfinches are the last birds to build nests in most of North America. They wait until fuzzy seeds pop out of plants such as the thistle at left. Why? Read on.


Watch how carefully goldfinches put their nest together:

The female chooses a good place for the nest to rest. It might be a fork in a tree or a tall weed near the water. She then begins weaving, weaving, weaving a perfect cup. As she works, her mate brings her some of the supplies she needs.

At first she uses thin strips of plant stems and tree bark. Next she may wind threads from spider webs into the nest to make it stronger. Finally she fills the inside of the nest with the softest stuff around: thistle down, cattail fluff, and wispy seeds from milkweeds. Just look at that cozy cup! (below left)


After laying the eggs, the female stays on the nest. Her mate brings food, so she doesn’t have to leave. And her dull green feathers make her hard to notice among the leaves. That’s good – enemies won’t find her easily.

The goldfinch pair below has built a nest in a small tree. Now both parents are feeding heir young. They spit up seeds they’ve eaten – right into the babies’ mouths. And the young birds always want more, more, MORE! Feeding seeds to baby birds is unusual. Most kinds eat insects.


This is the time of year when male goldfinches have the brightest feathers. (In fall and winter the males look a lot like the females.)

So be on the lookout this summer for golden birds with black heads. Watch for them in fields and marshes and at bird feeders (above). And remember, if you don’t see many females, they’re probably sitting on nearby nests – raising their new golden families.

COPYRIGHT 1994 National Wildlife Federation

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group