Goldfinches are a real delight to have in your garden. These small birds have a tropical look about them despite being fairly common across most of the UK and they are pretty to listen to as well.
The only areas where they are not present in this country is in the in the far North and West regions of Scotland. Although they are not rare or endangered birds, they're not especially easy to attract into personal garden spaces.
These are timid and shy birds who are fussy about the type of food that you're offering as well as with how your outdoor area is laid out. It took a while before we managed to encourage them to feed in our backyard but they're now daily visitors. Included are personal tips on how to encourage them to pay your garden a regular visit as well.
About European Goldfinches
European Goldfinch adults have a very striking dark orange-red patch across the front of their face with a flash of bright yellow on their wings and cheek area. They are not remotely like the very yellow American birds that happen to have the same name. 
They are a delight to watch in your garden and well worth trying to encourage since they are a sociable breed. That means, when you attract them, you are likely to get a whole colony of these coming in to visit.
We now get around 15-20 of these at a time coming to feed as a small group. So, once you start attracting them, you may get several arriving and wanting to eat simultaneously. It helps if you are already set up to accommodate having a small flock of birds in one go.
Natural Foods That This Bird Eats
Goldfinches naturally feed on seeds and insects. A reason why many people may struggle to attract them in the first place is because these birds love feasting on plants classified as weeds; plants such as dandelions, thistles and teasels. You don't have to grow any of these plants to get them to visit but certainly it can help if you do let a space in your garden get just a bit wild.
A nearby garden plot was completely overgrown for many years and it was full of these particular weeds. I used to watch enviously as the goldfinches flew straight past our neatly trimmed lawn to flock in this wild area of land instead.
When I first decided to put out food to attract this variety, I read that the small black Nyger (Niger) seeds were something that they liked since these are thistle seeds. I had these seeds hung up in the garden for months with no activity whatsoever. Not only did they not attract any Goldfinch, these seeds didn't attract any birds at all. Perhaps they work in some locations but in my area they didn't work at all.
Sunflower Seeds Work a Treat
Changing tack, I read that they liked sunflower seeds. So first I purchased some of the normal black shelled variety and, once again, there was zero interest. It was only when I bought some of the more expensive sunflower heart seeds (the middle of the seed without the husk) that we managed to attract our very first Goldfinches.
Other UK birds also regularly eat these seeds as well including Great and Blue Tits, Sparrows, Robins and Greenfinch. So these seeds have been a really great all-rounder and get eaten a lot especially during very cold spells and the spring with the birds having to feed little ones as well as themselves.
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Gazebo Style Feeders for Sociable Birds
Once we started feeding with Sunflower Hearts, they became so popular that we now have several feeders filled with them and hanging up. We have a couple of these gazebo style feeders by Gardman. I like these because they allow several birds to feed at the same time which is ideal for small birds who travel in a flock.
We also use the tube or cylindrical style feeders where a couple of birds can perch at a time. The Goldfinches prefer these gazebo ones where we will often see 2-6 of them eating together. Sometimes you will see a few perched on the lids waiting for the others to hurry up and finish so they can get some seeds instead.
A Shy and Nervous Personality
Unlike some birds which don't mind a bit of disturbance such as Robins, these are a little shy and nervy and tend to fly off the minute they become aware of you. Hence the feeders are at the bottom of the garden, in a quieter spot and placed near the dense Cotoneaster shrub which they can dive into for cover. They are easily spooked and we often see them suddenly take flight from the feeders because of a sudden noise.
Although we don't have any trees on our small plot, we have lots of tall trees in the surrounding plots that these birds also love to sit up and sing in. They use these trees to rest and suss out what is going on below before bobbing down to our feeders in little groups.
Provide the Right Food, Some Cover and Water to Attract These to Your Garden
Having some nearby cover in the form of trees (we notice that they seem to favor large trees ideal for all the flock) and shrubs near to your feeders should help to attract these shy and timid little birds. They are more cautious than other species and need places to make a quick escape to from noisy humans and natural predators such as neighborhood cats.
Growing some wild plants and weeds such as teasels, dandelions and thistles, may also coax them in with their natural favorite source of food. You can try growing some sunflowers for them so they can enjoy the seeds. Feeders that allow several Goldfinch to eat at a time and a bird bath nearby is another draw because they can rest for a drink and wash too.
Image Credits: The introductory image belongs to the author, Marie Williams Johnstone. All other images (unless watermarked with the author’s name) are product photos from Amazon.