Where Have All My Goldfinches Gone?

My Experience With Goldfinches Before 2015

 

Nearly every year since 2003, the first year I started feeding birds, I’ve had goldfinches in my back yard. Sure, there have been some years where they were heavier than others. I made a recording in May of 2011 where they were massing in the woods behind our property and the din was almost deafening. Have a listen.

Other than that year, the pattern was the same: they would become regular visitors during the winter, taper off a bit in the summer, disappear when plants got to seeding stages in late August and come back again for the fall/winter rush. This year that has not been the case at all.

american-goldfinchesThis year, due to some seed I purchased at Walmart which I believe had been stored improperly, I started out with very inconsistent results. I kept finding them on my sunflower seed feeders and not so much on their thistle feeders. I knew the feeders were clean and the seed was recently purchased so I just wrote it up to an anomaly of sorts.

Finally, I decided to see if there could be a problem with the seed. I asked my local Wild Birds Unlimited buddy what she’d been hearing. She said nothing struck her about the goldfinch reports she’d been getting from customers and gave me a small bag of thistle to try in my feeder. I could see her seed was shinier than mine which I knew meant oilier too. Do I have to tell you what happened?

Of course, within two days of putting out the new seed the feeders were covered up with goldfinches. I said my apologies to them for holding out on them and got ready to buy a new bag of thistle. Anybody that feeds birds will tell you how hard it is to throw away seed but I knew what I had to do. I threw some of it on my patio for the mourning doves but they didn’t go crazy about it and I knew it would take me way too long to get rid of it that way. So, I dumped it and moved on.

Still Not Here To Stay

After I replaced the old seed with the new the traffic picked up significantly for a while. Maybe a month or so. Then, I started noticing a tapering off when they should be settling in for the summer. I checked and cleaned my feeders one more time just to be sure. No effect on the traffic. So, pretty much from June or July of this year I’ve seen very spotty traffic back there and I can’t explain it. So, I’ve come to ask for your help.

What Has YOUR Goldfinch Traffic Been Like in 2015?

If you could leave me a comment below and tell me where you live and what your goldfinch experience has been like in 2015, I’d love to hear your feedback! I’m baffled. The only change that’s happened this year is we had a tree just behind our property get split and had to be severely pruned. I should mention this tree is not directly near the goldfinch thistle feeders but I did consider just the change in the backyard cover may have spooked them. The only problem with that idea is I think they started tapering off long before the tree was even damaged in the storm this summer. Anything you can share would be appreciated. Also, if you could like this post on Facebook or share it on twitter maybe we could get even more input.

Best,

Jeff

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  1. We live in NE Atlanta, we had bunches of Goldfinches in late winter through late spring. I use a mesh feeder and I’ll get 10 birds on it at one time. Once the black eyed susans and other plants start to bloom I take the feeder down. Now that we are just into fall the feeder is backup but only 2 takers at a time on the feeder.

  2. Hi David,

    Thanks for stopping by and letting me know what’s going on in NE Atlanta!

    Our pattern here used to be the same as yours. I use upside down thistle feeders that I keep clean and stocked with fresh seed. We’ve just not seen them here like other years. Hoping it picks up when it gets colder. Otherwise, I’m not sure what else I can do. I offer sunflower chips in a chickadee feeder and they’ll come to that but it does not make a dent in their actual numbers.

    Jeff

  3. I have always fed goldfinches sunflower hearts, niger and goldfinch food. Always kept everything clean. Used to get 20-30 a day between 3 feeders. It’s been almost 3 years and have only ever seen 1 or2. What’s happening? Almost all my friends say the same thing. Where have the goldfinches gone. Has it got something to do with Monosanta?

  4. Hi Roger,
    I get weekly updates from the Brome Birdcare people (they make squirrel proof feeders) and I haven’t had anybody mention problems with goldfinches. I still have trouble getting many of them at all. This is one of the first years I’ve actually had to empty, clean and refill a feeder simply because the seed got too old. What is it about Monsanto that you’ve heard besides their wide spread poisoning of our environment? Something specific to birds or goldfinches?
    Jeff

  5. I had read on one site that Monsanto products may be killing goldfinches besides butterflies. I live in Essexville Mi. and it’s been nearly 3 years since I had more than 1 or 2 goldfinches I miss them. Just getting regular finches

  6. Hi Roger,

    I have no doubt that Monsanto is behind something sinister. I had just not read about goldfinches and butterflies. I’m hoping our new President isn’t as disastrous as many are saying for the environment! I’m still only having 1 or 2 myself until I put up a chip feeder near my back door. Then I got upwards of 5. I hope their isn’t something chemically wrong with the seed I have out there. I’ll probably take it down in exchange for more chips and see what happens.

    What makes my feeding challenging is I have squirrels in my back yard and I’ve got to baffle everything I put up. The finch feeders are not baffled because squirrels don’t care for thistle.

    Do let me know if you try anything that increases their numbers.

    Thanks for reaching out!

    Jeff

  7. I’m going to try thistle in bags.Put 3 bags out between both sides of house. Keep my fingers crossed.

  8. Hi Roger,

    When you say “thistle in bags” what kind of feeder are you referring to? Do you mean sock feeders?

    Jeff

  9. Yes sock feeders. They have been up about a month and nothing. The only worry I have with them is how long the seed will stay good.

  10. Hi Roger,

    A lot of that depends on where you are and what the weather’s been like. If it’s warm where you are, they do not have anything covering them above and you’ve had ANY rain, I would consider pitching them now. I’ve never used the sock feeders for that reason. The only time I would consider using it is if you were getting them emptied every day or so and the seed was never just sitting there.

    Have you tried a chickadee feeder with sunflower chips in it? Goldfinches love that!

    I just recently put some back out and now both my thistle and chip feeders are seeing more goldfinch traffic.

    Something like this:
    https://www.wildbeaks.com/becks-red-chickadee-feeder/?gclid=CjwKEAiA8JbEBRCz2szzhqrx7H8SJAC6FjXX2O_2vLXp0MeyjATw-35oGJB9go3Sox62Kd2GHh5yVRoCpynw_wcB

    Make sure to hang it near a window close to your house to keep nuisance birds off and to raise your enjoyment. Goldfinches are the cutest but sloppiest eaters I’ve seen. The get the seed skin stuck on their face and look like a guy in a hotdog eating competition-LOL!

    Let me know if I can help in any way.

    Jeff

  11. Hi Roger,

    Have you had any luck with your goldfinches? I put chickadee feeder like I linked to in my last email and BOOM! I’ve got them all over the place now! Where I was lucky to see 2 in a day, I’m now seeing almost 20! They are emptying the chip feeder and lowering the level on my upside down thistle feeder by one perch level per day. Plus, I see them going to my hopper sunflower seed feeder in droves as well.

    Let me remind you that I had a couple per day for MONTHS before making this change.

    I would highly recommend getting a thistle feeder that protects the seed better and getting a small bag of thistle to try it out.

    Here’s the one I use:

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B000ARMH4A/ref=asc_df_B000ARMH4A4832264/?tag=hyprod-20&creative=394997&creativeASIN=B000ARMH4A&linkCode=df0&hvadid=167143095066&hvpos=1o3&hvnetw=g&hvrand=15250273581658782625&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9013074&hvtargid=pla-275136553175

    If that link doesn’t work, just go to amazon and look for “perky pet upside down thistle feeder”.

    I also hang it from a dome that has a solid top like this:

    https://www.amazon.com/Aspects-182-Super-Dome/dp/B000P1TB9K/ref=sr_1_8?s=lawn-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1487010748&sr=1-8&keywords=tube+feeder+dome

    The reason I use this combo is all tube feeders are bad to allow water to drip down into the tube. Most of the domes that allow you to stick the hanging wire through are worthless! They do NOTHING to keep water out of the tube.

    Hope you have more success soon and I’m looking forward to hearing back from you.

    Best,

    Jeff

  12. Our goldfinches and red finches we’re here in Maryland in 2014. Plenty of them. 2015 fewer. 2016-2017. Nothing. This is not good.

  13. Hi Joe,

    I’m sorry to hear that.

    Our goldfinches have been up and down throughout the year. Right now, I have a regular crew that is eating at the chickadee chip feeder and the upside-down thistle feeder. I’m getting ready to take down the chip feeder and replace it with hummingbird nectar which should thin the crowd quite a bit.

    On the other hand, I seem to have a large group of woodpeckers and have even recently had a red bellied pair nest in a tree just over our back fence. Very cool.

    What are you feeding your goldfinches?

    Jeff

  14. I live in La Jolla CA and have all types of Finiches, beautiful Anna’s Hummingbirds and from April until October we have Orioles come for grape jelly and nectar. This year the Goldfiniches were here in droves but just last week they stopped coming like overnight!
    I have always purchased the thistle seed from the same bird store for 15 yrs. I either use a tube feeder which I empty and refill either weekly or when needed sometimes as often as every two days or I use a sock and the birds have always flocked to it, sometimes as many as 10 on a sock and tube perches full.
    But now nothing, no birds touch either, no matter how many times I change the thistle.
    In fact I don’t even see the Goldfiniches about anywhere. All the other birds are still coming of course the Orioles have gone for the season. SOMETHING MUST BE WRONG WITH THE THISTLE! Since I see this being reported across the country. Is the thistle poisonous in some way??? Not that the birds don’t like it! They are GONE!

  15. Hi Mary,

    I’m in TN and my goldfinches this year have been sporadic. Right now here in TN, they are feeding on plants that have come to seed and I expect them to return in a couple weeks or so. That may be the case where you are as well.

    When you say you’ve changed the seed does this also mean you’re cleaning the feeder? Goldfinches are notoriously finicky eaters and even slightly dirty feeders will keep them away unless they are famished.

    I’m glad you’ve been able to enjoy the other birds in your back yard.

    Jeff

  16. I live in midcoast, Maine and gold finches have Have always been prolific in my yard as it is landscaped to attract birds…as of late summer there is not a finch of any kind to be had…traumactic

  17. Hi Robyn,

    I’m sorry to hear that. By the way, a few years back my wife and I visited Portland and only ventured to the LL Bean Outlet in your direction. Beautiful country!

    Every year in late summer, our goldfinches go away to eat from the kind of landscaping you’re talking about. They usually return before it gets too cold. I was pleased to see my first goldfinch on my chickadee feeder yesterday munching away on hulled sunflower seeds!

    I’m hoping as we get deeper into the fall and winter that the traffic picks up.

    As Mary had mentioned in the previous comment, I haven’t heard anything about thistle being poisonous or anything. My only advice is if you can hang a chickadee feeder near your back window or door so you can see who’s eating it. Also, if the thistle you have has lost its sheen, replace it. Goldfinches are probably the most particular feeders I’ve seen yet. If the feeder is dirty or the seed isn’t prime, they just won’t eat there unless forced to.

    Hope this helps. Do let me know if they return anytime soon.

    Jeff