Where Have My Goldfinches Gone?

We’ve gotten quite a few calls recently from anxious birders who are worried about a lack of goldfinches visiting their Nyjer seed feeders. After all, Nyjer seed makes up by far most of a goldfinch’s diet; why would they suddenly disappear? Many of these callers are worried that they’re doing something wrong, but actually, they haven’t done anything wrong at all. Instead, there’s an easily explained natural reason for the sharp decrease in goldfinch attendance.

5049_300While it’s true that goldfinches love Nyjer seed above all else, it’s also true that during the summer months, they begin to shy away from including it as such a staple of their diet. The reason? They’ve got young birds to take care of, and young birds need something meatier to eat than Nyjer seed. Most birds will feed their young birds insects at this point, but goldfinches tend to stick with seed. Therefore, it’s recommended that you stop serving the Nyjer seed, store that particular feeder until the winter and instead start serving black oil sunflower seeds and sunflower hearts. 1462newAn excellent feeder for offering these is the Duncraft Squirrel Blocker Feeder (seen at right), which has space for more than 12 perching birds and stainless-steel mesh to keep the seed inside fresh and aerated.

The other option, if you’d rather not give up on the Nyjer seed, is to make absolutely sure that the seed in your feeder is fresh and clean. We’ve had quite a bit of rain at our office in Concord, NH in recent weeks, and precipitation like that has the ability to wreak havoc with the seed that you serve. If you’ve had similar weather or just want to make sure that your seed is at its optimal attractiveness and nutritional value, there’s one thing that works better than everything else – a complete re-do of the supply inside. Empty the feeder out, clean it all up and then refill it with new and fresher seed.

As with all other birds, goldfinches both like and need water, making it a good idea to offer bathing and drinking options to attract them to your yard as well.

So there’s no reason to fret, those of you worrying about the lack of goldfinches. Just adapt to the situation at hand and your goldfinches will be back sooner than you can say “sunflower hearts.” Happy birding!

By Sean Peick (Guest Writer)

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{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Croff December 28, 2013 at 2:16 pm

It is now winter and there are still no gold finches at my feeder. This has been a trend for the past few years. There is definetely something going on with the gold finch population in central MA.

Joan Howell January 7, 2014 at 2:22 pm

I too miss the goldfinches. Its now January and in spite of 2 nyjer feeders I have only 1 lone goldfinch who is traveling in a flock of housefinches. Where are they? I’d like to hear from those who actually have them on their feeders and their locations. I’m in central New Jersey and very curious indeed. I certainly hope this is not a permanent situation!

Nina March 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

This is going on year two of no goldfinches at our feeders. Always had plenty. Then starting around November 2012 they disappeared. Last summer we saw a couple but that was it. Something more than just the type of food in the feeders is going on. We are just south of Boston. Have searched online for answers and found nothing. Will try Mass Audubon next.

Rita April 2, 2014 at 5:33 pm

We had Finches all winter but the past several weeks they haven’t been around! What happened? We live near Chicago and our winter was very harsh, but they were still here!

April April 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I had over 25 goldfinches and now they are all gone!!! What have I done wrong? I live in the Northern part of Mississippi. Please help!

Wilma Limber` May 18, 2014 at 6:58 am

Had lots and lots of both gold and red finches until recently and now hardly any. But had lots of rain and cooler weather. Will try fresh niger seed in a new sock and see if that helps. Maybe the sunflower hearts also. Northwest Ohio

Ken May 22, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Very few goldfinches this spring. There were many this past fall. I also note fewer migratory birds. Cardinals are just as numerous as usual.

Lynda July 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm

I am in Southwestern Ontario. The goldfinch population has declined almost disappeared the las two years.

Sharon Beres Rosen July 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

I live at the NJ Shore and we haven’t seen a goldfinch in over a year. I have plenty of other finches at the feeders and birdbaths, so I know the seed is OK.

tracy July 29, 2014 at 10:08 am

I live in northern Indiana, and the goldfinch population (as well as butterflies) has decreased quite a bit in the last two years. I’m concerned. Could it be the pesticides sprayed on golf courses that have killed trees in our area?

Bonny August 8, 2014 at 7:40 am

I too use to get many goldfinches but in the past three years now I only see one or two per season. I also believe there is more going on with pesticides …look at the honey bee population.

Gillian October 7, 2014 at 8:18 pm

I live in southwestern Ontario. During the Spring and early summer, I had tons of finches all day, every day.
They never went near the Nyjer sock…they fed only from the hulled sunflower feeder.
And, another very strange thing … I have not seen any finches since early August … they have just disappeared! Can anybody explain why???

Steve November 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Same here in Oklahoma. Three years ago I had multiple nyjer feeders around my house and actually counted over 100 beautiful yellow birds at one time! I will never forget that time, but now for two years I haven’t had a single one. I even threw away 50 dollars of nyjer seed for fresh… and nothing. There definately has to be something wrong or different to cause my gorgeous goldfinches’ disappearance.

Morgan December 12, 2014 at 10:01 am

It is now mid december in 2014 and I have yet to see any Goldfinch on my feeders that in the past year fed over 25 birds at a time. I noticed the decline in the early spring. I have only seen one at the feeder this fall. I can’t watch the activity all day long but on my days off there is no activity whatsoever. This to me is a harbinger, considering the honeybee and monarch decline, how quickly species are being added to the extinct list, the increase in invasive species activity, the destruction of habitat and the increasing amount of environmental degradation across the Americas. Hopefully it is just a cycle, as the optimists in our world would like to believe. The question as to where they went is probably a complex one and the answer is probably not so simple either. Judging by the comments above from the different parts of the North American and eastern seaboard, it is not just a regional problem but a continental problem.

Morgan December 12, 2014 at 10:07 am

I forgot to mention I am in the Niagara area of Ontario, Canada.

Heidi Babb December 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm

American Goldfinches are more regular migrators than most of the finch family, but their numbers do vary greatly from year to year. Wintering flocks are nomadic, their movements closely tied to food supply. According to the most recent data from the Partners In Flight (PIF) Species Assessment Database, Goldfinch populations are increasing slightly and that current environmental conditions are favorable for population growth for the American Goldfinch. Going from the global to the personal, I hadn’t seen many goldfinches at my house this fall (central NH) but this week I’ve gotten dozens of them at my feeder all of a sudden. Wishing you plenty of goldfinches at your feeder soon!

Heidi Babb January 29, 2015 at 10:16 am

Goldfinches are the heartbreakers of backyard birdfeeding. I wrote a little bit about this on my 12/31/14 comment. Since I added that comment, I’m still seeing quite a few goldfinches at my feeder, but they’re hardly touching the nyjer seed I have out for them in the tube feeder. Instead, they’re eating exclusively from my platform feeder, where I am serving the Duncraft Super No-Waste Blend, which combines delicious peanut bits, sunflower hearts, cracked corn and Nyjer for excellent nutrition. Your goldfinches may just be looking for different seed right now, or they may even be finding enough wild food this winter so they don’t need to visit feeders. We have to remember that our feeders really offer a supplement to birds’ diets, not their entire food supply. I wish you luck in bringing your goldfinches back!

Sharron Thomas April 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

I had dozens of finches at a time (all varieties) on my nyger socks and sunflower seed feeders. Suddenly, I had none! Not a single finch. This is April and typically there would be many. One day they were there, and the next day, gone. This happened over a month ago. I keep hoping they’ll be back. I have many different types of feeders. I notice that I have many Jays. Could they somehow be responsible? Plenty of hummers, dove, Blue Jays, and others. Just no finches.

Heidi Babb April 8, 2015 at 12:43 pm

Goldfinches can be so unpredictable. You have big flocks of them for years, and then poof, gone! Sometimes they just stop visiting our feeders because they have plenty of natural occurring food supplies. Because we tend to see goldfinches year round, we forget that they do actually migrate, so populations do fluctuate for a variety of reasons. Blue Jays can chase off the goldfinches, but they wouldn’t keep them away from the feeders all the time. Hope that helps!

Alayna Bullock May 18, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I still have my purple finches and other little finches, but at the beginning of spring the gold finches were here and now they have been gone for quite some time. I had four gold finches last year in my small yard in town and now I only saw two early spring. I have a finch feeder with a mix of safflower, sunflower, thistle, and millet. I also have my other three regular feeders with sunflower that the finched enjoy. And mulitple bird baths. I hope they come back. My relatives live in the country a town over and said they had 10-15 gold finches. Not sure if they are still there. Very worried. Southern IL.

Heidi Babb May 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Please don’t worry! Goldfinch populations are quite healthy but the birds are unpredictable. One year you have dozens and the next year just a couple. It’s perfectly normal for those little yellow guys.

grace May 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm

From southern Indiana….we are worried about the Goldfinch also…..we miss those beautiful birds and there cherry song….have cleaned the feeders and got fresh nyger…we’ll see what happens…..we have been told they are busy caring for their babies…hope they come back.

Sherri Salters May 25, 2015 at 3:22 am

I had 6 male Goldfinches and 2 female plus another 8 house finches. Normally everytime I looked out at least one of the Goldfinches were there. The past week, they ate gone. A few house finches but no sign of my pretty yellow boys. Miss watching them and praying they will be back soon!

julie June 6, 2015 at 8:30 pm

The year is now 2015, June……still no goldfinches. Put in fresh thistle which used to attract dozens at one time. Seeing none.

Heidi Babb June 12, 2015 at 8:51 am

In 2014 I had practically no goldfinches all summer — this year I still have tons of them, and they’re still begging for more nyjer seed. There’s just not predicting what goldfinches will do and where they’ll be doing it!

Judy June 21, 2015 at 9:08 am

I live in central New Jersey and I don’t see Goldfinches either. I have a sock feeder with nyjer seed.. a male and female visit it, but don’t stay long. They don’t seem to have much interest. At one time, not long ago, I would see lots of them. Another thing that has struck me.. I don’t see any Robins, either! I don’t think I’ve seen more than two this year. I used to see them on the ground all the time, hopping and getting their worms. It’s funny how we take things for granted, but when you don’t see them, it’s very sad. I hope it’s not a bad sign environmentally. I hope to see them again.

CONCERNED August 7, 2015 at 5:03 pm


Dawn Coutu August 10, 2015 at 3:43 pm

Hello there Concerned, read our article, “Where Have My Goldfinches Gone?” because it directly addresses your concerns. If you still have questions, feel free to call us and we can talk with you to figure out which factors are affecting the goldfinches in your area.

Wondering September 11, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Until last week I had 15 – 20 Goldfinches on the feeders, males and females, but lots of males all day. This week it’s only females. One lone male came and he was very dull colored with only a hint of color. Are they migrating already?

Heidi Babb September 14, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Hi Wondering! I had noticed the same thing at my feeders the last couple of weeks. What we’re actually seeing are male goldfinches that are into their annual molt. In September, the goldfinches grow a completely new set of feathers–their winter coats. You won’t see the bright yellow feathers on the males until next spring when they molt again. David Sibley wrote a really neat article about this called, The annual plumage cycle of a male American Goldfinch. My favorite feature of this article is his a graphic that shows how the plumage change from month to month.

Wondering September 14, 2015 at 4:47 pm

Thanks Heidi! Great article, great slideshow! I’m smarter now….

Sandi October 20, 2015 at 10:00 am

I am from north central Indiana and had lots of goldfinch all summer long. Now,October, and I haven’t seen any for a month. Do they migrate? Or should I keep the feeders full in case they return?

Heidi Babb October 20, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Great question, Sandi! Some Goldfinches do migrate, but they’re found in your area year round. Right now they may have enough natural food with grasses and plants all going to seed, so they’re not at your feeder as much as they were earlier. You should be seeing them in greater numbers in the next couple of months, so keep those feeders ready for them! You might just want to keep a little less food out if they’re not eating much.

Deb November 26, 2015 at 10:04 am

I had finches all summer and all last winter. Now they are gone. I haven’t filled the nyger feeder for about 3 weeks. I live in south central Pa.

Heidi Babb November 27, 2015 at 2:42 pm

My finches were eating like nyjer seed was going out of style all summer, and then they stopped for about a month. They’re coming back again now, though. This is not uncommon for goldfinches. They come and go for reasons known only to themselves. They are considered to be fairly nomadic little birds, and will move on if they find a good source of naturally occurring food. In fall, there are so many plants and grasses gone to seed, that they can find what they need without as much support from our feeders. Don’t worry — they’ll be back soon!

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