Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Secrets to Attracting Flocks of Happy Finches to Your Yard

Male Purple Finch (a/k/a Raspberry Finch)

Such energy and color!  I love finches: goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, crossbills, red polls, evening grosbeaks, and pine siskins.  They range from greens, to yellows, to oranges to raspberry red, and they have wonderful liquid songs that uplift the spirit.  You cannot help but be happy when finches are around.

On top of that, they eat a ton of weed seeds!  Their favorite seeds come from the thistle, also purple cone flowers, iron weed, dandelions, asters, cosmos, zinnias, and of course, sunflowers.  Once in a while they will eat a bug, but they are granivorous as a rule.

People so enjoyed their color and lovely songs that purple finches and house finches were once sold as caged birds!   To please either of these finches, plant cherry trees.  House finches in particular have a sweet tooth.  When hummingbirds aren't looking, they will steal some of their nectar! 

American Goldfinches Male and Female, Mourning Doves in the foreground.
by Grandma Pearl

American goldfinches delay raising a family until late summer to coincide with the ripening of the seeds they love.  They feed only seeds to their young, rather than any bugs or protein.  Their song and color is so beautiful that they are known as 'wild canaries'.  In the wintertime, they burrow under the snow for insulation against the cold.

This winter I have had mixed flocks of finches that have numbered in the hundreds!  I know because I participated in the annual Great Backyard Bird Count, as I do every year.  I'm sharing my secrets for finch success so that you may enjoy the colors and music of these awesome little birds.
Goldfinches in their winter plumage, lining the tree branches, waiting their turn at the feeders.
by Grandma Pearl

The Best Feeders for Attracting Colorful Finches:

Male House Finch enjoying a sunflower seed.
by Grandma Pearl

These little finches love to swing as they pluck seeds from this easy-to-make Basket Feeder
by Grandma Pearl

Best Foods for Attracting Finches:

  • Nyjer (Thistle) seed
  • Black Oil Sunflower seed
  • Peanut Hearts
  • Suet
  • White Proso Millet
  • Fruit
  • Cracked Corn
  • Rock Salt or Salt Block
  • Sugar Water (hummingbird nectar)

If you only have room for one or two feeders, or your bird feeding budget is small, choose the tube-style feeders:  one for thistle seed and one for black oil sunflower seed.  You may also wish to add a heavy dish in which to put a few small pieces of apples that have been coated in sugar water.  What a treat for your finches to enjoy when it's cold outside!

A block of salt placed on the ground, or a handful of rock salt scattered under the feeders, will also please your chatty little finches.  You can also toss handfuls of sunflower seed over the snow.  As they forage, they will pick up water from the snow to help with their digestion.

American Goldfinches foraging for sunflower seeds in the snow.
by Grandma Pearl

All birds need a source of grit, or tiny stones that they use in their crops to help grind up their food.  They don't have the stomach acids we do, so that is how their food is broken down for use in their bodies.  You can find a small bag of bird sand or grit at the pet store.  It's an inexpensive way to help out all your birds, especially in the wintertime when snow covers the ground where they would normally find the fine grit they need.

Make sure to keep your tube feeders very clean.  If you should find mold in the seed tubes, dump them out immediately.  Then clean your feeders with a solution of 9 parts of warm water to 1 part of household bleach.  This will kill any bacteria that would otherwise cause harm to your birds.  Make sure the tube feeder is thoroughly dry before refilling and re-hanging.  By the way, a long-handled narrow brush is useful for cleaning tube feeders.

Mold is also a sign that birds are not eating as much seed as you have put out.  Try starting with a smaller amount of seeds in a tube feeder until your finch flock expands as the word gets out around the neighborhood!

Also, don't allow seeds to accumulate under the feeders.  Mold and bacteria from droppings can develop.  Finches love to forage on the ground, and you don't want them to get sick or worse.  I use a leaf vacuum to suck up all those spent bird seeds shells; then I toss them into the garbage.  It isn't wise to use them as compost because sunflower seeds in particular do not get along well with other plants.  In short, they poison them, which can cause some nearby plants to be deformed or die altogether

Enjoy your fascinating flocks of finches.  I guarantee they will put a smile on your face!


Shauna said...

Your finches are so beautiful, Pearl! The yellow ones really do look like little canaries. You must be in heaven surrounded by the serenade of your feathered friends!

Connie Smith said...

Absolutely, Shauna!
I have real surround-sound here. My birds are happily calling and singing all day long. It's a real treat to go outside!

Eiddwen Jones said...

This is truly wonderful Pearl; as always so full of great knowledge and here's to so many more to follow. Enjoy your day and lots of love from Wales.

Connie Smith said...

Thank you Eddy,
All my energetic little finches are singing their little hearts out, no matter how cold the weather! They are a source of joy for me.