Flying Colors is a sponsored column on the hobby of backyard bird feeding written by Michael Zuiker, owner of the Wild Birds Unlimited store at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center. Visit the store at 2437 N. Harrison Street or call 703-241-3988.
American Goldfinches are beautiful year-round residents. Their brown feathers molt in the spring, giving way to beautiful golden feathers for the summer, and they molt again in the fall.
A lot of people think that Goldfinches leave us in the winter, but they stay right here. They just unfortunately loose that gorgeous yellow color, but still will come visit your feeder.
Goldfinches are our acrobat seed eaters: they enjoy eating upside down. They enjoy eating from a mesh feeder filled with sunflower chips, Nyjer (thistle) or a mixture of both. The mesh feeder allows them to cling and eat at any angle. This allows dramatically reduces invasive birds like the English Sparrow from getting on the feeder.
You can also add a rain guard on top to keep the seed dry. It can take a week or two for a full feeder of Nyjer to be eaten. Keeping it dry for the goldfinches consumption keeps the food from getting clumped up and possibly spoiled.
What is Nyjer? Nyjer is a seed that is grown in Ethiopia and India and is a registered trademark of Wild Birds Unlimited. People are typically worried that it grows if it fell out of the feeder.
It is not hot enough to grow here but if it does it makes beautiful yellow flowers. Thistle is a wild plant that grows all over. You may see if along highways. That plant grows a purple flower and the leaves are very prickly. We sell Nyjer and although it might grow a bit, it is not the invasive thistle you see everywhere.
Nyjer is a thin black seed that can spoil if moisture is present. It should be stored in a dry cool place and it should be replaced every three to four weeks in a feeder. If the seed becomes moldy you should dump it out and clean the feeder, let it dry overnight and refill with fresh seed. Nyjer is a highly nutritious food with a high oil content.
American Goldfinches are also our late nesters. They will have their broods in August, so keep those feeders filled with fresh seed. Be sure to keep your birdbaths filled too; for they love moving birdbaths and drippers. If you have purple coneflowers or black eyed susans in your yard they will pick at the seeds in them.
We have a good variety of finch feeders in stock and rain guards to add to them. We carry 5, 10 and 20-pound bags of Nyjer. Our seed comes in fresh once and week. We can guarantee with fresh seed and a little patience you will get the gold.