How to Attract Finches to Your Yard

Goldfinches are exceptionally beautiful birds, but these eye-catching yellow birds are just one of dozens of species of finches that you can attract to your yard.

Perhaps you could make your yard a home for Cassin’s finch, which has a rooster-like red comb.

Or you could attract American grosbeaks, with their yellow, black, and white plumage.

Or you could feed and watch the burgundy-red pine grosbeak, wintering in your yard after spending its summer in Alaska, or purple finches that writer Roger Tory Peterson described as “sparrows dipped in raspberry juice”

Finches come in a variety of sizes and colors. There are many finches that have been domesticated as pets.

And almost all finches make beautiful music in your yard.

Finches offer three-second renditions of warbled notes that end with an upward or downward slur.

Male finches sing all year long. They mostly feed on weed seeds, but they will eliminate the occasional scorpion or spider.

Finches are a wonderful addition to any yard. Here are our top tips on how to attract them.

Put in an all-season bird bath

Goldfinches love to take showers. A standing bath or a fountain improves your chances of drawing these birds to your yard.

All finches like moving water sources. You can transform your still water bird bath to a moving water birdbath by putting an inexpensive Water Wiggler in it.

The Water Wiggler is the “wiggler” part of a more expensive moving birdbath.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind the aesthetic, you could place a garden hose in your birdbath to provide a steady drip or trickle of water.

Finches are always moving, so they prefer water that is always moving — especially in the middle of winter. Finches will flock to heated birdbaths.

They will stay with you over the winter rather than migrating if you can provide them with a dependable food supply and warm, moving water.

Use feeders designed for finches

North American finches are small and clingy. The best feeders are mesh or sock feeders that allow them to peck out the small Nyjer seeds while they “hug” their feeder for safety.

Thistle seed sock feeders are the easiest for homeowners to maintain, and the easiest for finches to cling to while they extract the seeds between the threads of the sock.

If you aren’t planning to stock up on the tiny, black Nyjer seed that finches enjoy, the next best thing is to offer regular bird seed from a small tube feeder.

Smaller feeders don’t accommodate bigger birds, like blue jays, blackbirds, and crows. Your finches won’t have to fend off larger birds to get their fill of seed.

Place your feeder in a secure location

Finches are wary of turning their back to the sky or to a large, unprotected area while they feed.

They keep an eye out for hawks, blue jays, grackles, and crows while they are in the air.

They will be aware of cats, snakes, raccoons, rats, fox squirrels, skunks, and chipmunks when they are on the ground.

A finch is not going to risk its life for a few pecks of birdseed.

You can’t hide feeders in dense foliage and expect finches to find them, but you shouldn’t leave bird feeders completely in the open, either.

Place feeders for finches 10 to 12 feet (3 or 4 meters) away from trees with dense leaf cover, bushes with prickles and thorn, or low-lying shrubs.

Finches prefer feeders that are hung at least 6 feet (2 meters) off the ground. You don’t necessarily need to hang them from sturdy tree branches if there are trees nearby.

If you live near open fields (great seed sources) or rivers, place feeders in locations where you have seen finches before.

You don’t need to go deep into dense forest to feed finches. The margins of protected woodlands and shrubbery are fine.

Decorate your feeder with weeds

Finches don’t automatically make the connection between feeders and food. There aren’t any plastic tubes or hanging socks in nature.

Migrating finches that have not encountered feeders before may not notice them unless you attach weed stalks with seeds to them.

Thistles, dandelions, and Johnson grass make tasty meals for finches. You can attach seed stalks from these plants into a few of the feeding holes of your bird feeder.

This is especially useful for attracting finches when you have had to replace a feeder that was on a support that broke, or you are adding a new seed feeder to your yard.

Put fresh, black seed in your bird feeder daily

Finches are fussy eaters. They aren’t attracted to stale, brown or green seeds. They prefer fresh, black seeds like Nyjer seed.

It’s OK to mix Nyjer seeds with cracked sunflower seeds for extra oil and millet for extra carbohydrates. Finches use the calories from these seeds for energy while flying.

You can use this combination of seeds to keep finches in your yard year-round. Make sure all three kinds of seeds are available every day.

You can use this combination of seeds to attract first-time visitors to your yard from November to March. Seeds are less abundant in the wild during the late fall and winter.

Providing the seeds finches like will induce them to choose your yard as their permanent home.

Make sure the seed in your feeder is fresh

Finches (literally) ruffle their feathers when they encounter spoiled birdseed.

There is good reason for finches to reject anything but fresh, unspoiled seed.

When finches (especially goldfinches) have to heat moldy seed, they tend to come down with fungal diseases. They lose their ability to sing.

They develop stomach upset. They lose weight, and some will die.

Use squirrel baffles to stop dripping onto the seed that can make it go bad (and also stop squirrels). If you are using a tube feeder, choose a model that has good air circulation.

You can avoid spoilage by keeping your feeder only half full. Finches feed from the bottom half of the feeder so keeping the feeder half full minimizes spoilage.

It’s more work for you, but it keeps the birds healthier.

Give finches a place to perch

Finches are cautious around feeders. Sometimes a group of finches will arrive at a feeder and wait to see which one will go first.

They instinctively want to make it harder for a hawk or a grackle or a blue jay to attack them by reducing their numbers as they feed.

You will get more finches to stay around your feeder waiting for their turn to feed if you provide them with a place to perch.

A perching stick is fine. Anything with elevation (6 feet/ 2 meters would be best) a horizontal place to perch would work.

Remember, finches perch with three toes pointed forward and one toe pointed back, so they need a wider perch than most other birds to perch comfortably.

A stick will do. A bar or a board is better. An arbor or a gazebo makes an ideal perching place for finches.

Lure finches with an edible garden

Finches are attracted to gardens with lots of flowering plants, but they aren’t really interested in sticking around until those plants go to seed.

Place seeding plants around your garden to attract more of these golden birds. Avoid deadheading your plants. Let the finches do that for you.

Great seed plants for finches include cosmos, cottonwood, cattails, milkweed (which will attract butterflies while it is still blooming), marigolds, and zinnias.

But the premier source of seed for finches and other birds is sunflowers, which you allow to go to seed at the end of the summer.

You can attract multiple birds to a single bloom on a sunflower plant.

You can only attract one finch at a time with ornamental thistles, but thistle seeds are a favorite of this species.

You will have to do extra weeding in the spring to keep thistles from taking on your landscape, however. Goldfinches love thistle seeds.

Blackeyed susans and coneflowers are drought-resistant additions to your summer seed garden.

If you are a vegetable gardener, don’t remove lettuce just because it bolts in warm weather. Let it go to seed to feed your finches.

Maintain one feeder at a time until finches start staying year-round

Finches are wary of abundant feeding grounds. When lots of seeds attract lots of finches, they are afraid they might become part of the menu for larger birds.

Finches will fly away from yards that have too many feeders.

Choose one safe location for one feeder until finches become familiar with your yard.

Once they know all the escape routes from your feeder in case a predator shows up, then you can slowly introduce them to a second feeder.

Keep one feeder clean and regularly restocked, but don’t scare birds away by offering them too much.

Tie a yellow ribbon ‘round an old oak tree

Finches love colorful ribbons and streamers. These ribbons and streamers don’t necessarily have to be yellow. Or tied to an old oak tree.

Placing color ribbons on trees in plain sight from the flight paths of birds in your yard is attractive to finches and many other songbirds, like orioles.

Make sure you leave loose ends that move in the wind to get the attention of color-loving birds.

Over time, finches will associate moving, colorful ribbons and streamers with safe places where they can find water, food, and shelter.

Ribbons and streamers can greatly increase the number of finches in your yard.

One more thing you need to know about attracting finches

Finches are finicky eaters. They will never finish their bird seed.

They will always leave something for later. In nature, leaving some seeds behind ensured that there would always be plants to grow another harvest of seeds the next year.

Don’t expect your finches to finish up that expensive Nyjer bird seed you bought them just because it is a tasty treat.

And, in general, don’t confuse expensive bird care for effective bird care.

Every effective method of attracting finches to your yard requires your participation. They need you to keep tabs on their safety and security.

They will reward you with opportunities to enjoy their beautiful plumage and melodious songs.

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