Goldfinches are omnivorous birds that consume a variety of plant and animal matter. These songbirds mainly eat seeds obtained from lavender, dandelion, teasels, and thistles. During spring, goldfinches eat small insects, which are mainly given to the young.
This article will shed more light on goldfinches, particularly their diet, how they hunt, when they eat, how often they eat, how much they eat, their predators, and their role in the animal food chain.
Table of Contents
- What Do Goldfinches Eat?
- Goldfinch Diet by Types
- What Do American Goldfinches Eat?
- What Do European Goldfinches Eat?
- What Do Lawrence’s Goldfinches Eat?
- What Do Lesser Goldfinches Eat?
- When Do Goldfinches Eat?
- How Much Do Goldfinches Eat?
- How Often Do Goldfinches Eat?
- What Eats Goldfinches?
- Goldfinches in Animal Food Chain
- Which particular food do goldfinches love?
- For how long are goldfinch nestlings fed by their parents?
- How do young goldfinches obtain their nutrition after hatching from their eggshells?
- How do nesting goldfinches get their food nutrients?
- Do goldfinches eat sunflower seeds?
What Do Goldfinches Eat?
|Type of Goldfinch||Binomial Name||Goldfinch Diet|
|American Goldfinch||Spinus tristis||Omnivorous (seeds of trees like elm, alder, and birch. Also, twigs, barks, maple sap, buds, and insects)|
|European Goldfinch||Carduelis carduelis||Herbivorous (daisies and other plant matter). 10% of the diet is composed of invertebrates too.|
|Lawrence’s Goldfinch||Spinus lawrencei||Mainly herbivorous (seeds, buds of plants & fruits) and occasionally insects.|
|Lesser Goldfinch||Spinus psaltria||Omnivorous (weed seeds, teasel seeds, lavender seeds, thistle seeds, and other plant matter). Also, they consume aphids & other insects.|
Goldfinch Diet by Types
There are five types of goldfinches: the American Goldfinch, the European Goldfinch, the Eastern Goldfinch, the Lesser Goldfinch, and the Lawrence’s Goldfinch. In addition, they are classified into two genera, namely Carduelis and Spinus.
- American Goldfinch is found in North America. They are mainly found around the Rocky Mountain region of the United States, and their range extends from Alaska to Mexico.
- European Goldfinches are found in Europe, geographically distributed across Spain, France, Italy, Poland, Romania, and Scandinavia.
- Eastern Goldfinches breed mostly east of the Mississippi River, but they can be found west up to Colorado; their distribution includes southernmost Canada. They are also in Iran, Russia, and the eastern part of China.
- Lesser Goldfinch is smaller than American and European goldfinches; it is distributed across the south-eastern United States and South Central Canada through Mexico southward to Central America.
The primary diet of these types of goldfinches is plant seeds and plant leaves, and they are relatively similar to all Goldfinch types. Still, there are some particularities among them, such as how much food they prefer to eat, their bill length, overall size, and egg to nestling ratio.
What Do American Goldfinches Eat?
Diet: American Goldfinches are omnivores whose diet is mainly composed of seeds, particularly plants categorized in the families Solidago, Hieracium, Lactuca, Taraxacum, and Cirsium.
- These songbirds also eat small seeds of trees like elm, alder, and birch. The American goldfinches also eat young twigs, barks, maple sap, and buds. They also eat insects during summer.
- About 80% of their diet comprises plant life, while the other 20% constitutes animal matter.
Hunting Techniques: American goldfinches occasionally eat insects during summer, but they do not actively seek out the insects.
Where can it be spotted? The American Goldfinches can be spotted in the Americas, particularly in floodplains and weedy fields. However, these birds can also be spotted in backyards, orchards, roadsides, and cultivated areas.
What Do European Goldfinches Eat?
Diet: European goldfinches are primarily herbivorous, preferring to eat daisies.
European goldfinches are primarily herbivorous, preferring to eat daisies.
- However, during spring and summer, they occasionally eat invertebrates.
- Given this insight, it is apparent that about 90% of their diet is made up of plant matter, while the other 10% is composed of invertebrates.
Hunting Techniques: During summer and spring, European goldfinches stalk invertebrates, which are readily available. Often, the protein-rich invertebrates are given to the young ones.
Where can it be spotted? European goldfinches are endemic to Europe, North Africa, West and central parts of Asia. These birds are commonly seen in thickets, streams, forest edges, riverine, grassland, scrubland, parks, orchards, gardens, marshy areas, and open, partially wooded lowlands.
What Do Lawrence’s Goldfinches Eat?
Diet: Lawrence’s Goldfinch is mainly herbivorous, meaning that about 95% of their diet is obtained from plant matter, particularly seeds. Their preferred diet entails buds of some plants and fruit. These birds occasionally eat animal matter, which constitutes about 5% of their diet.
Hunting Techniques: The Lawrence’s goldfinches mainly forage in trees, weeds, and shrubs. They often feed quietly after foraging on the ground. The strategy they use when looking for food is mixed flock foraging.This strategy is helpful because it increases the pairs of eyes when foraging, thus heightening their chances of hunting success.
Where can it be spotted? The Lawrence’s Goldfinch can be found in Southern California, New Mexico, western parts of Texas, and southern Arizona. This bird will likely be seen in weedy fields, open oak woodlands that are dry, and next to a source of fresh water.
What Do Lesser Goldfinches Eat?
Diet: The lesser goldfinches are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. · These birds primarily feed on seeds, which make up 90% of their diet. In addition, they primarily consume tiny weed seeds, especially thistle, lavender, and teasels.
The lesser goldfinches are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter.
- These birds primarily feed on seeds, which make up 90% of their diet. In addition, they primarily consume tiny weed seeds, especially thistle, lavender, and teasels.
- Meat makes up 10% of their diet, which they mostly eat during summer. Their preferred source of animal protein is aphids.
- These insects are also regurgitated for the young to promote their growth.
Hunting Techniques: The lesser goldfinches are active foragers. Except when nesting, these birds look for food in flocks, which is strategic because it increases the pairs of eyes when spotting food.
Where can it be spotted? Lesser goldfinches can be spotted in any patchy and open fields in the U.S all the way to South America. However, their preferred habitats are those next to forest clearings, farmlands, desert oases, scrubland, and weedy fields.
When Do Goldfinches Eat?
Goldfinches are diurnal feeders. This means that these birds will likely be seen during the daylight hours, hanging on the seed heads, in the quest to access their beloved seeds.
- Goldfinches will often form a communal roost with linnets, greenfinches, and chaffinches.
- Before nightfall, these mixed flocks head to their preferred roost sites, which can change from time to time.
- A vital fact worth noting is that the roost site can be very far from where goldfinches feed, meaning they have to engage in a lot of traveling before feeding.
How Much Do Goldfinches Eat?
On average, birds tend to consume about a half or a quarter of their body weight each day to sustain their lives.
- Considering how goldfinches are very active, particularly the lesser goldfinches, it makes sense that they would need to eat as much food to sustain their high energy levels. These birds can even hang upside down to gain access to their food.
- It is also worth noting that goldfinches need to eat a lot of food during the day to provide them with all the energy they need to support the shivering that heats them at night.
- It has been documented that shivering action can come in handy to help them maintain a temperature of between 106 and 109 degrees.
- Being predominant seedeaters, goldfinches also tend to consume lots of water to wash down their food. As such, access to fresh water makes more sense to them.
How Often Do Goldfinches Eat?
Goldfinches eat as often as they can to meet their daily energy requirements.
- Some goldfinch members can even travel everywhere to find food and eat to their fill. This is because they tend to avoid competition from members of the same or other bird species.
- To sustain their growth, goldfinch chicks are fed twice each hour. In addition, the parents carry partially digested food (mainly composed of seeds and some insects) in their crops.
- The food carried in the crop is often a lot and is enough to feed a whole brood.
What Eats Goldfinches?
Different organisms find goldfinches to be an ideal source of nutrients. Some of the goldfinch predators for the various species are as follows:
- American Goldfinch: This Goldfinch is predated by garters snakes, American Kestrels, Blue Jays, weasels, domestic and feral cats.
- European Goldfinch: These goldfinches’ eggs and chicks are predated by sparrow hawks.
- Lawrence’s Goldfinch: These goldfinches are predated by the American kestrels, weasels, blue jays, the eastern garter snakes, domestic and feral cats.
- Lesser Goldfinch: This Goldfinch is predated by several organisms, including but not limited to the northern pygmy owls, sharp-shinned hawks, American kestrels, scrub jays, gray squirrels, and brown-headed cowbirds. Nest predators that target eggs include Argentine ants, brewer’s blackbirds, and more.
Goldfinches in Animal Food Chain
Goldfinches play a tremendous role in the animal food chain in various capacities.
- These migratory birds are predated by numerous organisms, both mammals and birds. Thus, they offer a great source of protein nutrients to these organisms, allowing them to thrive in this role.
- By consuming a small number of invertebrates during summer and spring, goldfinches help engage in the biological control of the local populations of the insects they eat.
- Goldfinches also help disperse seeds to new areas by consuming seeds and nuts, allowing plants to grow and proliferate. The plant growth provides food for other organisms within the food chain.
Which particular food do goldfinches love?
Goldfinches love nyjer seeds. These small seeds have a high oil content that comes in handy to offer energy to active birds like goldfinches.
For how long are goldfinch nestlings fed by their parents?
Goldfinch nestlings are fed by both parents from their nests for about two weeks. These birds then fly out from the nests. The parents continue to feed them for another week.
How do young goldfinches obtain their nutrition after hatching from their eggshells?
Nestlings’ parents feed them until they leave their nests. Then, they consume regurgitated matter, which entails a mixture of seeds and insects. Thus, early broods are lucky because they are fed more insects, enhancing their growth.
How do nesting goldfinches get their food nutrients?
Females are fed thanks to a process referred to as courtship feeding.
- Courtship feeding goes on from the moment the first egg is laid to the nesting phase. After the first egg is laid, the female spends much of her time in her nest, strategically protecting the eggs from nest predation.
- The males often bring regurgitated food for the nesting females.
Do goldfinches eat sunflower seeds?
Goldfinches will eat sunflower seeds and can be purchased in seed mixes or on their own for feeding. They seem to prefer thistle seeds over sunflower seeds. However, they will still come to the sunflower feeder if there is nothing else available for them.
In addition, Goldfinches also love sunflower leaves and other large leafy plants where they can munch on leaves until just the leaf veins are left out. Note that sunflower leaves contain Vitamin-E, Selenium, fats, protein, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, and iron which are excellent nutrients for birds.
Goldfinches are medium-sized songbirds, categorized into two genera. For these birds, though omnivorous, a more significant portion of their diet is drawn from seeds of the daisy family. These birds are prey and predators of aphids. With such roles to play, it is necessary that there is awareness about them to ensure their population remains stable. This is important to maintain the integrity of their ecosystems.