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Those Busy Goldfinches
September 10, 2018

The blur is a chipmunk chasing the squirrel from the area.

A good batch of Cool Canadian air moved in for the weekend.

Daytime temperatures in the 60's is a bit of a shock.

Though the night time temperatures made for some good sleeping.

Windows open allow for all of nature's sounds to come inside.

This time of year it is the nightly chorus from the insect world.

Days are filled with the world of birds.

Right now, that means American Goldfinches.

Old and young alike.

I love it.

(Pictures from the yard, again.)

Yesterday (Sunday), after church,we stopped off at my sister-in-law's for a few minutes.

Up walked one of her so called homeless cats (she cares for), with a Black- capped chickadee.

I controlled my anger, as these cats give her some meaning in life.

I did make a comment, as she too feeds the birds.

I know, an odd scenario.

Yet one that angers me.

Folks, please keep you cats inside.

If you no longer want, or can care for your feline, put it up for adoption or give it away.

Millions upon millions of birds are killed every year by an introduced (invasive species).


If you haven't by now, it is time to increase the octane in your hummer feeders.

Hummingbirds, Feeding and Care for Feeders.

I like to increase the sugar content from 4:1 to 3:1 and even a bit higher for short periods.

Hummingbirds need to add weight for the long migration south and this helps them put on weight in a hurry.

In fact, they need to double their weight.

From .10 oz. to .20 oz.

This week's topic, those busy Goldfinches.


American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis):

(Juvenile Goldfinch in Prairie Dock.)

It's late August and early September and a new generation of American goldfinches are now coming to our yards and feeders.

(One of the sounds of the season I enjoy so much.)

Yes, it is a reminder that summer is almost gone, but also brings happy sounds.

I enjoy it when the yard and feeders are inundated with scores of fledged goldfinches begging to be fed.

Goldfinches are one of the last species of birds to nest.

Often in mid to late summer.

Many experts want you to believe that goldfinches wait to nest so they have thistle down to line their nest with.

Maybe there is something romantic about that whole idea.

“Waiting for thistle down to build a nest.”

This couldn't be farther from the truth, and I don't understand why this is always brought up as the answer or reason.

(I've even E-mailed a couple of these experts and their publications to explain this to me, but I never received a response back.)

If you are still with me, I'll attempt to explain this whole thing to you and you can decide.

Are you ready?


Pay attention ......

Now remember, I'm a Naturalist.

I think like a 'Naturalist' (maybe it is my left handed, right brain thinking).

Sometimes I see things differently.

I'm also a retired 'Certified Nurseryman' which means, I just might, or I should know a thing or two about plants and possibly weeds.

(I don't know everything, but I am required to know a few things.)

Things that 'Ornithologists' may not be on top of.

Now ..............

Here is a Fact:

A vast majority of the thistle weeds that find there way into your gardens and grow along roadsides and fields have been introduced and are nor considered invasive species.

Yes, even 'Canadian Thistle' is an introduced species and on the invasive plant species list.

Most species of thistle came over with European settlers.

Whether in plant form or seed mixed with crop seed, it is now here to stay.

I digress......

Now if I remember my history, that means that these noxious thistle plants have been around for maybe 200 years.

Possibly 350 years along the east and much less time has passed for these plants to have spread across North America.

That doesn't leave much time.

I believe in creation, but that isn't even a blink of an eye, even in evolution terms.

So, what did Goldfinches do before thistles plants came along, if it is all about thistle down.

Besides, are there actually enough thistle plants scattered about to line all the goldfinch nests?

What about suburbia where thistle plants may be rare?

Anyone that lives near a female Cottonwood tree, knows there is more than enough plant down in the spring to line countless nests.

Wild willows provide down in the spring and countless native plants and weeds provide down as well throughout the season.

So my question is this .........

How can plant down be the reason these birds nest so late in the season?

And why do so many promote this belief?

The answer.................

It isn't the reason at all.

Pay attention.

Look at the big picture.

American goldfinches are 99.9 percent seed eating birds.

Virtually everything they eat is some kind of seed.

Are you with me?????

Now then .....

What time of year do most plants go to seed?

Mid summer thru Autumn.

How often do you see goldfinches gleaning from your Sunflower heads or your cone-flowers?

Goldfinches enjoy Liatris and Rudbeckia as well.

Not to mention Zinnia and many species of seed.

So many of our plants and weeds go to seed in mid to late summer, and into fall.

Seed eating birds ..............

Reproducing at the same time of peak foo sources. 


Creation is pretty smart if you ask me.

So now I have scores of seed eating, fledged goldfinches coming to my yard and in the fields (other critters preparing for winter too), and Nature's table is set for the feast.

If Goldies fed on insects, berries and other stuff like most bird species, they would have different nest seasons.

But they don't ..................

They are seed eating birds.


While most Goldfinches have one clutch, there are some years and in some regions they will have a second clutch.

The last couple of years I've noticed well into fall several fledglings and that familiar and happy  sound of feed me.

A nice way to extend the season for us, don't you think?

There you have it...........

Why do American goldfinches nest so late?

Thistle down for nests, or seed for seed eating birds.

You know where I stand on this topic, however the choice is up to you.

As habitat continues to shrink, your feeders and wildlife gardens play a key roll.

You can offer a wide variety of native plants that offer seed and nesting materials.

A few years ago, I added a couple of very large native plants.

A Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum),  and Prairie Dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum).

Both plants will grow 10 feet (3 Meters), tall.

Dozens of small yellow sunflower like blooms top off these plants.

Dozens of little seed heads that attract American Goldfinches to my yard.

While feeders attract birds year round, there is something to be said about attracting wildlife with nature.

Most birds prefer nature.

Yes,Gardening For Wildlife plays a vital roll.

No matter where you live.

Well,, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Norman MacFinan

When you give of yourself and with a glad heart, things happen.

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart."

Psalm 37:4

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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