Goldfinches are instantly recognisable birds that live in loose colonies. Their gold plumage and bright red cheeks are an incredible sight, especially if you happen across them gathered in their preferred open woodland habitat. They are known to group in their hundreds, but usually, there are around 40 birds that roost together.
Knowing this and the fact that I quite often see them at my nyjer feeders, I wondered where goldfinches nest and how likely they are to make my garden their home.
If you’re lucky enough to have a large garden with lots of trees and seeding plants, you might see a series of goldfinch nests up high. They prefer to build them in parks, woods, and on farmland.
Their favourite trees are oak and beech; they’re tall and provide plenty of coverage.
They also build their nests in tall hedges and shrubs, high up where they feel secure.
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Meeting their mate
Goldfinches have an intricate mating ritual whereby the male performs a series of bobs, dances, and songs to attract the female of his dreams.
It all happens within the colony, and all of the other birds watch on with interest.
When they become a couple, it is time to construct a nest in readiness for babies.
Building a goldfinch nest
The female takes charge when it is time to build the nest. That doesn’t mean the male sits idly by; he might gather materials and leave them close by. At other times, he looks as though he is overseeing work when in reality, he is protecting her.
Where is the nest
Goldfinches are balancing masters; their nests are between 4 and 10ft high and on the slender outer branches of the tree. The female cleverly weaves these vertical twigs to form a tight bundle, secure enough to support the adults and their chicks.
Goldfinches also build their nests in tall shrubs and hedgerows, so we must take great care when carrying out any trimming work.
The outer nest
Female goldfinches are diligent workers; their nest can take up to a week to complete.
They use many different materials including, leaves, small twigs, grasses, and roots. Moss and feathers feature heavily in the construction, as does lichen – the moss-like growth on tree bark.
She weaves it tightly to form a secure cup.
Goldfinches are renowned for their love of thistle and teasel seeds. Any parts of the plant remaining are also useful building materials.
The inner cup
When construction is complete, the female turns her attention to lining the nest. She needs to ensure it is warm, soft, and as waterproof as possible; another reason that they prefer to nest under dense cover.
Both goldfinches collect materials, but the female places them in the nest. They use almost anything soft such as hair, fur, wool, plant down, and roots; anything that will add insulation and comfort.
Do goldfinches nest in bird boxes?
Goldfinches are regular garden visitors; they are gregarious birds that happily eat from bird tables. They’re not cavity nesters, and so it is unlikely that they would nest in a bird box.
When do goldfinches build their nests?
Goldfinches don’t build their nests until a week or two later than most other songbirds; they are clever and take advantage of abundant food sources before beginning work.
Their nests are strong enough to attempt a second brood in the same breeding season, providing the first is successful.
Goldfinches nest anywhere there is adequate cover and a good source of seeding plants, particularly thistles and teasels.
The next time you’re out in woodland, look skywards; you might see the red-faced, industrious birds in full, nest-building action.