With flashes of glorious red, yellow and black, the goldfinch is one of the most recognisable garden birds. Coming in at number 8 in 2021’s Big Garden Birdwatch, you’ll often spot them in small flocks called a ‘charm’. RSPB England’s Vicky Browne explains how to identify them and make your garden a goldfinch friendly zone. 

With red faces, black caps and yellow flashes on black wings, bold and bright goldfinches are a great way to get children interested in bird watching. They’re a sociable bird and will often be seen in loose flocks. 

Goldfinch key stats 

Size: 12cm 
Identifiable features: Highly colourful, goldfinches have a red face and black and yellow wings. 
When to see them: All year round, but some head for Spain for the winter. 
Where to see them: A variety of habitats, orchards, woodland, heathland and gardens. Especially common where there’s thistles and other seeding plants, such as rough farmland. 
What do they eat: Goldfinches are specialist seed feeders and will eat insects in summer too. 
Song: Listen here https://xeno-canto.org/34678 

How to spot a goldfinch 

Goldfinches are very colourful with their red, black and yellow palette, and as you’ll often see them in flocks, they’re not too hard to miss when you’re out and about in the countryside. As well as their bold tones, listen out for their distinct melodic call - historically they were often kept as caged songbirds. 

How to attract goldfinches to your garden 

Goldfinches love plants that have gone to seed and will appreciate teasels and thistles. It’s always well worth gardening with nature in mind - teasels will provide a food source for butterflies and moths in the summer and are loved by goldfinches in autumn. Lavender is also popular with butterflies and goldfinches too! 

In terms of feeders, goldfinches love nyjer seeds. You’ll need a special feeder to hold these tiny seeds, but we have a pre-filled tester version available in our shop. Please be sure to clean your bird feeders weekly using an outside water source, rubber gloves and a mild detergent to avoid the spread of disease. 

There’s still time to sign up to the Big Garden Birdwatch. Register here: rspb.org.uk/birdwatch

Image credit: Ben Andrews