Have you had trouble keeping finches at your feeder? If so, you’re not alone, it’s a common bird feeding question.

American Goldfinches are one of the prettiest reasons to keep your feeders full in the summer. It seems that goldfinches are so pretty they know they can afford to be a bit more finicky than other birds.  But by following a few of rules of thumb, you can keep finches around and keep them satisfied:

1. Purchase Often & Purchase In Small Quantities. The food for finches can go by a variety of names: Thistle or Niger or Nyjer (and that’s just one seed that doesn’t include all the finch specific mixes on the market). Nyjer is not grown in the United States and is imported from a variety of places including Burma, Singapore, Ethiopia and Myanmar.  Unlike sunflower seed, Nyjer loses its appeal as it ages. You can purchase a huge bag of black-oil sunflower seed and the birds will still eat it over a year later (provided it isn’t chock full of moth larvae and has been stored in a cool, dry place).  Once Nyjer is about six months old, finches lose interest in it, so when you purchase the seed, purchase it in smaller quantities and purchase more often.

If you’re not sure if your finch food is old, ask yourself how long ago you bought it.  If it’s more than six months, purchase some fresh seed. If you see a finch food clearance sale, beware. Chances are that store is trying to unload product that’s about to go bad.

2. Keep Finch Food Fresh In The Feeder. This is a great rule of thumb for bird feeding period. Many finch feeders are a screen type, like the one above and the finches can cling to the side and pull out the small Nyjer seeds. But this leaves it suseptible to the elements. When it rains, the seed gets wet. With some seeds, birds will still eat it, not usually the case with Nyjer. Once the seed has gotten wet, the finches usually will not eat it.  Check your feeder after a good rain, make sure the seed isn’t clumping up with mold.  If it is, clean out the feeder and put in fresh seed.

If you aren’t certain if your food is bad in the feeder, watch the finches. If the food is fresh and tasty to them, a finch will perch for awhile and chow down. If a finch lands on a perch and takes a peck, then moves to a different perch to take a peck and then to a third and only takes a peck, that is a sign that the food is either too old or possibly moldy.

3. Finches Don’t Like Change. Most birds are creatures of habit and that goes double for goldfinches. Besides Nyjer, you can get finch mixes. If goldfinches are used to straight Nyjer in your feeders and you switch to a finch mix with a variety of seeds, they sometimes will avoid the feeder until you go back to offering the plain Nyjer (the reverse can also be true). Even a new style of feeder can make finches avoid the feeder.  Keep it simple and worry about offering the latest and greatest if your finches are already used to one kind of seed.

So, if finches are avoiding your feeders, look over those rules and see if any of them apply to your feeding situation.



Written by Birdchick
Sharon Stiteler was given a Peterson Field Guide to Birds when she was seven years old and snapped. She loves birds - it’s just the way she’s wired. Since 1997, she has made it her goal to get paid to go birding. She runs the popular birding blog, Birdchick.com, and has been in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and on NBC Nightly News as well as making regular appearances on Twin Cities’ TV and radio stations. She’s a professional speaker and story-teller and her writing can be found in several publications including WildBird Magazine, Outdoor News, and Birding Business. She wrote the books 1001 Secrets Every Birder Should Know, Disapproving Rabbits and City Birds/Country Birds. When she’s not digiscoping, tweeting or banding birds, she’s a part-time park ranger and award-winning beekeeper.