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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Late Season Nesters....American Goldfinch

While it may seem to us that the harvest season begins the winding down of summer, in actuality, the latter part of the season is nesting time for some of our bird friends. Cardinals, Mourning Doves and Robins all have multiple broods right up until the fall months. 
But the American Goldfinch doesn't even begin to nest until late June.

The reason for the goldfinches being such late nesters is that rather than feeding their young insects, their search is for seeds. Wildflowers are going to seed by July and August, just in time to be the food source for goldfinch hatchlings. 

When you plan your wildlife friendly landscaping, in addition to choosing native plants that offer food sources, also consider what can offer nesting material. Seed fluff is the type of seed from plants such as thistles and milkweed. Goldfinches utilize this fluff to line their nests to create a soft and warm home for their nestlings as the nights begin to get chillier. 

Sunflower going to seed

Once your sunflowers start going to seed, you can hear when the goldfinches arrive. Their sound is very distinctive and pleasant. It is wonderful to hear their chatter and song amidst the drooping flower heads of these bountiful plants.

Milkweed going to seed
Milkweeds, sunflowers and native thistles are excellent choices for plants that will attract goldfinches to your yard and gardens. Many people aren't too keen on allowing thistles to go to seed in their garden areas. Granted, it isn't pleasant to work around the prickly thistle plant and even more aggravating to enjoy going barefoot and stepping on such plants. But if you have a naturalized, out of the way place that you want to encourage natural plantings, then let the thistles alone and allow them to offer the birds their seed fluff.

Other late blooming plants to have in your yard and gardens which will attract late nesters are Coneflowers, Asters and Goldenrods. These plants not only offer seeds, but they also attract insects which are a food source for many types of birds. Mourning doves and robins depend on insects rather than seeds, so having a variety of plant types is important.

Plant host trees such as the Oaks, which in turn attract caterpillars, also an important food source for the adults and chicks.

Shrubs (preferably berrying types, an example being the Viburnums) will provide shelter and hiding spots for the fledglings as they learn to fly and are more able to evade predators. Young birds are so vulnerable at this stage and many fall victim to prowling animals in search of an easy catch.

Provide a water source. Birds definitely need water, but it is also very enjoyable for them to have a place to just splash around.

Here is an excellent post on the American Goldfinch by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Fall Asters, Goldenrod

New England Fall Asters

Viburnums and Carolina Rose