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News — looking after birds in winter

8 Interesting Facts about Goldfinches

8 Interesting Facts about Goldfinches

The goldfinch is one of the most common birds in British gardens. And it’s certainly one of the most striking. Here are 8 interesting facts about these beautiful birds:

#1 According to the RSPB Big Birdwatch 2018, goldfinches have had a bumper year. Recorded sightings rose 11% from 2017 and goldfinches were spotted in an incredible two thirds of gardens. There are currently thought to be 1.2 million breeding pairs of goldfinch in the UK.

#2 Male and female goldfinches look pretty much the same. Juveniles, however, are much duller in appearance. They are mainly brown with some yellow markings on the wings. And they don’t yet have the distinctive red face that they’ll gain in adulthood.

#3 The goldfinch’s attractive colouring and appealing song meant many Victorians kept them as caged pets. The RSPB fought against the practice but it was only in 1933 that the sale of wild birds was made illegal and the wild goldfinch population began to recover.  

#4 Goldfinches can be found in a number of religious artworks from the Italian Renaissance. Because it eats thistles, the bird was associated with Christ’s crown of thorns and was referred to as a “saviour” bird.

#5 The goldfinch’s scientific name is Carduelis carduelis. The name is derived from the Latin word for thistle – Carduus – the seeds of which are one of the goldfinch’s favourite foods. They are able to avoid thistle spikes and access these tricky to reach seeds because of their long fine beaks.

#6 Goldfinches traditionally made their homes in farmland. Now, however, they’re often seen in gardens. This is partly down to the food we leave out for them. They have a particular love for niger seeds and sunflower hearts. They are also known to eat small insects.

#7 Goldfinches nest later in the season than most other garden birds. Eggs hatch from June all the way through to September. Nests are made from grass and mud and built high up in trees and hedges. They’re lined with plant down (for heat and comfort) and covered with lichen (for camouflage).

#8 A flock of goldfinches is called a charm. They’re social birds. Once breeding season is over, they can be seen roaming for food in flocks around 40 strong. Groups of up to 100 have also been spotted.  

If you’re yet to see goldfinches in your garden, leave out a few of their favourite foods. You could also try growing teasels and lavender, both of which are known to attract these pretty songbirds.

5 Ways to Help Your Garden Birds Over Winter

5 Ways to Help Your Garden Birds Over Winter

From December to February natural bird food is scarce. Hard or snow-covered ground can make the usual food inaccessible to birds. This is a time when garden birds could certainly use a helping hand. Birds that manage to maintain sufficient fat stores over winter are more likely to be healthier come the spring breeding season. This means a greater number of healthy chicks being born.

Here are five ways you can help the birds in your garden during the cold winter months:

Clean Out Nest Boxes
Birds survive the colder winter months in a number of ways. Some fluff out their feathers to provide better insulation. Some birds go into a torpor, a state of reduced heart rate and body temperature that allows them to burn fewer calories. Other birds survive the coldest snaps by roosting in nest boxes. To create shelter for your garden birds, clean out nest boxes at the end of the breeding season, leaving them vacant and ready for winter visitors.

Provide Hedgerow Shelter
Some birds prefer to spend winter roosting together in hedgerows. If you have the garden space, plan ahead and do some planting. Dense privet or hawthorn hedges are a great roosting venue for garden birds. Equally, ivy and holly also provide excellent cover.

Provide More Feeders
Providing more feeders over winter makes life easier for your birds and for you – you don’t have to venture out into howling winds and driving rain to top up your feeder on a regular basis. Birds will also be able to find the food they need at this time of increased demand. Fill your feeders with winter bird seed that’s high in calories and nutrients.

Leave out Fatty Foods
Birds really enjoy fatty foods during winter months. The extra fat is nutritious and filling. It helps birds to build up their own fat reserves and gives them a big energy boost. Fat balls are the perfect option, we have a range of fat balls and high fat foods in our Fatty Box.

Create an Unfrozen Water Source
Birds don’t just struggle to find food in winter. Finding water can also be a problem as many water sources freeze in very cold weather. Check on your bird bath every day to make sure it hasn’t frozen over. If you want to go the extra mile you could invest in a solar heated birdbath that will provide unfrozen water whatever the weather.

Provide bird food, water and shelter all year round to encourage birds to your garden. But, come winter, it’s a good idea to take a little extra care of your garden visitors. The provisions you provide will stand them in good stead for surviving the colder months.

You might also like to look at our article: endangered birds and how to help them