Goldfinches Elect to Visit Britain's Gardens
Bird On! News
12th May 1997
If you are in Britain watch out for Goldfinches in your garden this week. A new report from the British Trust for Ornithology reveals that this is THE week when Goldfinches are most likely to visit Britain's gardens. And they are likely to be the next bird to exploit all the food put out by bird lovers.
Goldfinches are beautiful birds with red and black round the head and a bright golden bar through the wing. They are smaller and more delicate than the bigger Greenfinch - now very much a garden regular throughout the year. But this was not always so and fifty or sixty years ago hardly any gardens had Greenfinches as visitors. Gradually the have increased and the habit of coming to feed at bird tables has spread into Europe - they are now garden birds in Poland!
The next finch to become a garden regular was the Siskin. This smaller version of Greenfinch started to come to gardens in Surrey 35 years ago and now, in some years, there are records from 60% of the British gardens surveyed. It looks as if this habit will spread too Goldfinches too. There were only records of Goldfinches in 4% of gardens 25 years ago. The birds love tall weeds like teasels and also come to feeders for thistle or black sunflower seed - they seem to particularly like green feeders. The tinkling, ringing call note is characteristic and particularly pleasing to the Human ear as the flock (known as a 'Charm') keeps in contact with each other.
Only six or seven per cent of the thousands of gardens surveyed record Goldfinches in December but 27% of gardens surveyed in the first week of May 1996 have them! And the reason for the peak in May? Many of these finches are migrants spending the winter in Spain or even Portugal. When they come back to depleted seed stocks at this time of year they discover food in gardens and may be present in flocks. Feeding these birds in gardens may well gradually alter their pattern of migration with more and more spending the winter with us. Probably less than a quarter of Britain's Goldfinches stay at home for the winter at the moment. Feeding the birds in spring is very important for many species. The food is not fed to the baby birds but keeps the adults fit and flourishing.
These discoveries come through the activities of GARDEN BIRDWATCH with thousands of gardens counted weekly throughout the country. Contact Andrew Cannon or Tracey Brookes on 01842 750050 if you would like to help (£10 for forms for a whole year - and 4 issues of the magazine Bird Table). Participants need to be in the UK or Ireland.