PHOTO: Eric Bégin/Flickr
Jessica Walliser
August 30, 2012

Late summer is prime time for our perennial-flower borders, and they’re looking lovely this year. Although this season has been a little dry, because of the mulching I did this spring, we haven’t had to water the flower gardens much at all. Plus, many of the plants I have are drought-tolerant and fairly low-maintenance.

And when the perennial borders do well, so do the American goldfinches. This year is no exception. American goldfinches are beautiful, bright-yellow birds with black wings. The females are a bit more drab than the males, but both are so much fun to watch in the garden—they’re one of only a handful of birds that can hang upside down to eat! Goldfinches devour seeds, so on any given late-summer day, I can catch sight of at least a dozen of them flitting about the flower beds. Yesterday, I counted 19 at one time!

Even though goldfinches enjoy plucking the seeds from many different flowers, they tend to claim their favorite feasting grounds in our garden. We see them first and foremost on our sunflowers, clinging head down on the massive flower heads and pulling out the seeds one by one. Once they get a seed, they fly off to a nearby perch and hammer it open with their beaks, then go back for more.

When the sunflower heads are already taken, we also see the goldfinches on our purple coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and even the tall coreopsis. It’s especially fun to watch them on windy days, when the flower stalks bend and sway in the wind and the birds dance right along with them.

Earlier in the season, before their preferred flowers have gone to seed, we feed our goldfinches with niger-thistle seeds. I bought a narrow, cylindrical feeder a few years ago, and they love it. These feeders are created especially for American goldfinches, as the feeding holes are located beneath the perches so the birds can hang upside down to feed.

 



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