What do goldfinches feed their babies

American Goldfinch: a Common Bird with Uncommon…

July 21st, 2017 by Barbara Mackay The Outside Story

Illustration by Adelaide Tyrol

I love the fact that there is always something new to observe in nature. Take goldfinches, for example. I have often watched them devour milkweed seeds from an acrobatic, upside-down position. Recently, I spotted several bright yellow males perched atop dandelion stems, plucking the seedheads at a frenzied pace. Previously, I had only seen them snag dandelions in mid-air.

Of all our native songbirds, American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are perhaps the most consistent vegetarians. Thistles are a favorite food source and nest material. Sunflower seeds are another top meal choice, something you have probably observed if you offer these popular seeds in a feeder. Aside from our freebies, goldfinches also eat seeds from grasses, weeds, teasel, mullein, and ragweed, along with birch and alder buds, maple sap, and berries. An uncommon agility allows them to extract seeds from any position. Their short, pointed, conical bills are well-suited to crack open hulls and other tough packaging.

Goldfinches feed their newborn broods a strict diet of regurgitated seeds rather than high-protein insects or a mix of seeds and insects favored by other passerine (perching) birds. Coincidentally, this habit offers a distinct advantage against an occasional parasite, the cowbird. Cowbirds are known for depositing their eggs in other birds’ nests, where the large cowbird nestling often receives an unfair share of food from the unsuspecting parent, risking starvation for the other chicks. But baby cowbirds can’t survive off seeds, and a cowbird hatchling in a goldfinch nest is doomed.

Vegetarianism also influences nesting time. From the earliest red-winged blackbird to the last of the common yellowthroats, migrating birds generally get right to the business of establishing territories, building nests and raising young as soon as they reach their breeding grounds. This is especially true for those that double- or triple-brood. Like other songbirds, goldfinches pair up in the spring, but they wait until thistles, milkweeds, and other wildflowers start going to seed in summer to breed and nest. At this time, each male selects his own territory, flying in circles around an open area dense with weeds and shrubs, preferably near a water source (even a reliable roadside ditch will do). Warbling from a high perch, he defends his area by chasing other males away. His mate selects a suitable site for a nest and constructs it over four to six days while he helps by gathering material.

A goldfinch nest can be hard to find amid summer foliage, but it’s easy to identify. Look for a sturdy, cup-shaped nest built into the fork of a branch in a sapling or large bush. Small twigs, bark strips, and long plant fibers form the outside, which measures close to three inches across. Spider web silk acts as a glue to hold it together. The inside cup is deep, smooth, round, and firm. It is lined with catkins, bits of wool, and so much thistle and milkweed or cattail down that the pale, bluish-white eggs are almost hidden. Eventually the down becomes compacted during incubation and as the hatched chicks shift around. The nest is so tightly woven that it can fill up in a deluge of rain, sometimes drowning its inhabitants.

One clue to identifying a goldfinch nest is its characteristic squalor. Unlike other birds, goldfinches stop removing fecal sacs after the babies become active, about a week after hatching. Instinctively perhaps, the chicks begin to defecate along the edge of the nest. The nestling period lasts from 11-17 days, and there are usually five chicks, so you can imagine the buildup of dried waste. Hygiene aside, the durable nest maintains its shape well, still looking re-usable in midwinter. The thistle down gives it a cozy, cottony appearance.

Most songbirds completely replace their feathers once a year, commonly before fall migration. The summer feathers are gradually pushed out by a more subdued winter plumage. The following spring, a partial molt results in the attractive colors that enhance courtship. Male goldfinches become canary yellow with a black cap and black wings, each marked with a white wing bar. Females become a soft yellowish green with yellow belly feathers. Both sexes’ bills, legs, and feet change from dark brown to a soft pink-orange-yellow color.

Unlike most birds, goldfinches do not continue to defend a territory once a family is started, and members of a flock move freely in and out of each other’s areas. They are social birds, flocking together in winter and amicably sharing bird feeders at any time. This time of year, see if you can spot one gathering seeds and fluff in the milkweed patch.

by Barbara Mackay

Barbara Mackay is a teacher and naturalist who lives in northern Vermont.

© by the author; this article may not be copied or reproduced without the author's consent.

Visit the The Outside Story archive…

What Do Baby American Goldfinches Eat? (Answered!) – Outlife Expert

The babies of the American Goldfinch are referred to as nestlings. At this stage in life, the little ones are still very much dependent on their mother for survival. As far as diet goes, food will be brought to them by both parents.

This diet of baby Goldfinches consists mainly of softer insects like worms that the parents catch and feed to them. After 2-5 weeks, they are able to catch their own broader variety of insects and eat seeds.

As they get older their diet consists of a variety of different things like bugs and worms, seeds from plants and trees, grasses and grains, and maybe even some small spiders – which mom catches for herself but passes on to her babies.


The male is bright yellow in color.

American Goldfinch summary:

Family: Fringillidae

Occurrence: Southern Canada to California in the summer. Also Florida and Mexico in winter.

Diet in the wild: Seeds, insects.

Feeder type preferences:

  • Large tube feeder
  • Small tube feeder
  • Ground feeder
  • Large hopper feeder
  • Small hopper feeder
  • Platform feeder

Feeder food preferences:

  • Black Oil Sunflower Seeds
  • Hulled Sunflower Seeds
  • Nyjer (Thistle) seeds

Endangered: No.  

The American goldfinch is a small garden bird commonly found in large flocks throughout the US, southern Canada, and central Mexico. As short-distance migratory birds, they move south during the winter to escape the cold.

During summer they are found from southern Canada to California and North Carolina. During winter, they can be found from Washington to Nova Scotia south into central Mexico.

Their natural habitat is open meadows, but they often flock towards bird feeders in suburban areas. They are the official state bird of three US states: Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington.

Map showing the likelihood of observing the American goldfinch in all states of North America.
The stronger the red color, the higher the chance that you will see the American goldfinch in your backyard.

The American goldfinch belongs to the Fringillidae (finch) family.

There are four subspecies: the eastern goldfinch, the pale goldfinch, the northwestern goldfinch, and the willow goldfinch.

Other closely related species include the lesser goldfinch, Lawrence’s goldfinch, and the siskins. Despite the similar-sounding name, they are not related to the European goldfinch.

Identifying the American goldfinch

The American goldfinch is a 4 to 6-inch, brown to yellow bird with a white undertail. Their wings and tail are black with white markings. In summer, the male is easily distinguishable with his bright yellow plumage and black cap.

The male is very recognizable due to its bright yellow color.

The female is brown with a pale-yellow underside in the summer months with an olive-colored head and back. In winter, both males and females are olive-brown with a yellowish head. Juvenile fledglings are a dull brown with pale yellow undersides.

Their call is a chirpy “tseee-tsi-tsit-tsit”.

Subspecies can be distinguished by their distribution and small variations in coloration and size.

The eastern goldfinch is the most common and most eastern subspecies. They occur from Colorado eastwards from southern Canada to central Mexico.

The slightly larger pale goldfinch, as its name suggests, has a paler body, stronger white markings, and a larger black cap in the male. They have a more western range stretching from British Columbia to western Ontario south to Mexico.

The northwestern goldfinch is darker and smaller compared to the other subspecies. They occur along the coastal slope of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia to central California.

What do baby American Goldfinches eat?

Baby American Goldfinches are nestlings and as such, they eat different things than older goldfinches. When nestlings are able to leave the nest, they turn into fledglings or young adults, which are able to find their own food.

Baby Goldfinches are mostly fed by their parents and they eat a lot of insects like worms and larvae. In the wild, adult goldfinches feed on insects too.

Baby goldfinches in their nest.

Fledglings also occasionally eat nectar from flowers but unlike adults, baby American Goldfinches don’t have a developed tongue for this task.

Their parents make a supply of insect larvae and put it in their nest for the golden babies. The insects that they feed on are mostly soft-bodied like worms, caterpillars, and some beetles. They can also offer them hardbody bugs such as ladybirds (ladybugs), small grasshoppers, crickets, etc.

They do not eat larger or hostile insects such as bees, as goldfinches are simply not able to catch these, let alone eat them without being stung!

As they grow older they start to eat small pieces of fruit and seeds. Insects are good for their health, especially in the winter when they don’t get a chance to feed on berries that grow in summer or fall.

How To Feed a Baby American Goldfinch?

Here are some tips on how to feed a baby American Goldfinch.

Whereas adult goldfinches can eat wild bird seed mixes, baby goldfinches cannot digest larger seeds or other hard food items yet.

Therefore it is generally best to feed baby goldfinches soft worms as their parents would do.

The best insects to feed a goldfinch are mealworms, wax worms or small earthworms and larvae from your yard, and other easily digested worms.

As these worms are often quite big, it is recommended that you chop them up and feed the soft contents of the worms using something soft like a brush instead of a spoon.

Another way to make nutrient-rich food for the birds when they get about older is by blending seeds into readily digestible slurry!

Make your own birdseed mixes by combining several types of grains, seeds, and other ingredients available to you.

Mix sunflower seeds with safflower seeds, nyjer, or canary grass seeds. You should also add some peanuts into this mix because these are high in fat and protein too.

Soak the seeds overnight in 5 times their weight in water and then put your special mix into a blender and blend till all seeds are turned into liquid slurry without clumps!

You can also offer American Goldfinch some blended fruits such as apple, pear, and orange because these foods contain sugars, and citrus fruit is packed with Vitamin C. Just remember not to feed them grapes because the seeds can be poisonous.

How about food for fledglings?

After the baby goldfinches are two to three weeks old, they can start to eat more solid foods.

When the American Goldfinch is a few weeks old, it will be able to able to find its own food in the wild.

The easiest food for them when they are old enough is sunflower seeds which you can offer in a separate feeder or mix with other bird foods. If too big, offer them grass or nyjer seeds instead. Alternatively, chop the sunflower seeds into a food processor.

Place a feeder around the house or around the yard where you have released the fledgling goldfinches.

Especially near the trees where great tit, tree sparrows, or finches live are good options.

Does the Male American Goldfinch Also Take Care of the Babies?

Yes, the male American Goldfinch takes care of the babies. Like most bird species, the male and female build nests and raise their young together.

Both parents bring food for their young ones to feed them until they are ready to fly away from the nest. They also take care of the females who sit on the eggs.

Goldfinches mate in the months of April and May but they breed only once a year. You can start looking for their nest in March or early April when these birds are ready to mate.

The female is in charge of building the nest out of thin branches, grasses, roots, moss, etc. She makes a cup-shaped nest in which she lays 4-5 eggs.

The female sits on the eggs until they hatch but during this time, the adult parent birds need more food like nyjer or canary seeds, fruits, and insects.

These foods contain proteins and lots of energy that are very important for their health and provide them enough energy to take proper care of their young.

You can help the parents get enough energy for raising their babies by placing a bird feeder with seeds or mealworms nearby.

You can also place it in a window to attract adult goldfinches and other birds that you like. Make sure that the feeder is easy for your birds to use by attaching it in a way that is easily accessible.

Make sure that the food doesn’t spoil with rain or sun because this can harm or even kill birds. So place it under the roof or another form of shelter. Also remember that when you refill the bird feeder, some seeds will fall to the ground.

The best time to feed your birds is in the morning or late afternoon, especially during winter or colder days when these birds can’t go out and forage.

However, there are some types of goldfinches that visit bird feeders even during nightfall so you can try feeding them at dusk too. Don’t feed your American Goldfinches when you have a cat in your garden because this will only attract the cat and it may harm birds.

Fledglings are almost adult birds able to eat most of the same food items. However, the parents often feed them for a while after leaving the nest.

After leaving the nests, both males and females take care of the babies through their fledgling days.

Can You Breed Goldfinches in Captivity?

Yes, you can breed goldfinches in captivity, but it is not recommended as they are wild birds and should stay like that!

However, if you feel that a young goldfinch is unable to survive in the wild, the only option might be to take it in. But always consult your local vet before making these decisions yourself!

In case you have to take care of goldfinches, you should provide them with shelter during cold days and shelter them from the sun during hot days. You can keep at least two goldfinch couples together for breeding because they are not aggressive towards each other.

What Do You Do If You Find an Abandoned Baby Goldfinch?

Here are some tips on what you should do if you find an abandoned baby goldfinch.

In case you find a baby goldfinch in your garden, make sure not to touch it too much as it will scare the bird, although it is a myth that their parents will not take them back if you do so!

First, place the bird in a dark, warm, and quiet environment. You can put the bird into a box equipped with soft tissues or paper that will allow them to have warmth. Put another tissue around it to stop it from sticking onto the bird.

Do not force any sort of liquids or food into their beaks unless they are very weak because the bird may choke on this.

The best way to feed them is by putting the food into their mouths using a clean dropper or syringe when they open up their beak on their own.

You can feed them up to eight times a day, however, don’t overfeed them just enough for them to swallow the food easily.

Don’t give the bird too much fruit because this may cause it to have diarrhea. However, you can give them water using a dropper. Keep in mind that overfeeding is bad for birds so only put enough liquid into the dropper so that they can swallow or lick it easily. You should also feed them insects like mealworms now and then.

If you decide to take care of a found baby goldfinch, make sure that it gets enough warmth and/or sunlight especially during cold winter days when birds cannot go outdoors and forage. Install an infrared bird bulb to provide the right amount of warmth if you keep it outside.


Goldfinches are a very beautiful type of American bird that is characterized by their yellow and black color. They can live in both the wild and in captivity.

Whereas baby goldfinches need a high-protein diet of soft insects like larvae, when goldfinches come out from their nests, they can eat high-protein human food items like canary seeds or thistle-dried flavored flowers, etc.

However there are many other options, you can feed them as well if they are not too expensive for your budget. You should also put a birdbath in their aviary to provide water because birds need fresh water every day.

Although you might be able to help a baby goldfinch for some time, remember that they are always better off with their parents.

But remember: If you find a baby bird, always consult your local animal hospital or veterinarian before doing anything else.

Backyard birds in North America

Are you interested in how the backyard birds in your state compare to other states?

Then check out my other blog posts below:

  • Backyard birds of Alabama
  • Backyard birds of Colorado
  • Backyard birds of Delaware
  • Backyard birds of Georgia
  • Backyard birds of Hawaii
  • Backyard birds of Illinois
  • Backyard birds of Iowa
  • Backyard birds of Kentucky
  • Backyard birds of Louisiana
  • Backyard birds of Maryland
  • Backyard birds of Massachusetts
  • Backyard birds of Missouri
  • Backyard birds of Nebraska
  • Backyard birds of New York
  • Backyard birds of North Carolina
  • Backyard birds of Oklahoma
  • Backyard birds of Rhode Island
  • Backyard birds of South Carolina
  • Backyard birds of Tennessee
  • Backyard birds of Texas
  • Backyard birds of Virginia
  • Backyard birds of West Virginia
  • Backyard birds of Wisconsin
  • Backyard birds of Wyoming

Or in Canada:

  • Backyard birds of Ontario
  • Backyard birds of Prince Edward Island
  • Backyard birds of Saskatchewan
  • Backyard birds of Quebec

Not on the list – check out the rest of my posts on backyard birds here!

Maybe you would like to know if the Blue Jay or Cardinal dominates in the bird feeder hierarchy or how birds such as seagulls sleep at night?

If you are interested in posters and other wall arts etc. with drawings of all the backyard birds you have just read about, check out my portfolio over at Redbubble:

Animals, like people

Today we will talk about mothers in the animal world. We will try to find out which of them is the most caring, gentle and attentive.

Let's compare. For two months, white storks nurse their chicks in the nest. In swans, chicks leave the nest almost immediately. But they swim side by side with their mother, sometimes even until next spring.

Mother seagulls, protecting their babies, are ready to attack any enemy.

It is customary for many spiders to have the spider mothers of their numerous cubs rolled on their backs.

Which one is better? Try to figure it out. All are good!

Very caring mothers of mammals. How much tenderness and love in the relationship between a she-wolf and cubs, for example!

Wolf cubs start playing at the age of 20 days. And the she-wolf plays with them. How else! After all, it is through the game that many vital skills are transmitted to kids from adults. While playing, they lie in wait for each other, attack and even try to bite. Wolf cubs especially love to play hunting games.

You can look at mutual wolf tenderness endlessly. All this is very reminiscent of the best features of human society.

Long “childhood” distinguishes mammals from other animals. Their cubs, coming into the world, are not ready to cope with life's difficulties alone, unlike, say, newborn snakes.

The duration of the period of training and games is different for different animals. The shortest childhood is for small rodents, the longest is for predators and herd animals.

So it turns out that not only the present, but also the distant future of these young animals depends on mother's selflessness.


There are a lot of amazing and unique mothers in the world of birds. We have already talked a little about storks today. In fact, their dedication during the two-month nursing of chicks in the nest knows no bounds. Often, the mother stork, in order not to suffer from idleness, while the father flew away for food, collects grass near the nest. She does this to disinfect her house, which is not so easy to clean. By the way, the stork remains near the nest in order to protect their babies from predators.

But the mother of black stork chicks is ready to become an umbrella for them during a sudden rain. When the heat comes, the storks shelter the children from the scorching sun. And they even bring water in their beaks to young storks. A unique phenomenon in the world of birds.

Feathered predators bring up their chicks in strictness and love. Here is an osprey - a great fisherman and ... a caring mother. The osprey screams, which means that he is worried about his chicks.

Like most birds of prey, female ospreys are slightly larger than males, so they have more opportunities to protect their offspring.

Osprey chicks begin to fly at the age of one month, but even after leaving the nest, it still takes a long time for the osprey to learn to fish on their own.

The female of the amazing owl, the Great Gray Owl, is always on guard. Little owls can be calm: if necessary, their mother will intimidate even a bear that accidentally approached the nest.

In the first days after hatching, the mother owl does not leave the nest even for a moment. Absorbed by the worries about feeding offspring, she does not have the slightest opportunity to devote even part of her time to her own nutrition. As a result, the owl loses a lot of weight.

But she doesn't seem to care about her own well-being at all. How else, when you bear full responsibility for the fate of such charming creatures? But what a two weeks! Every day, the nightingales need to be fed in full, warmed up, tidied up in the house, protected. So parents fly like shuttles - back and forth: hunting - to the nest, hunting - to the nest. Because these days are the most important in the life of nightingales.

And even the well-known bad cuckoo turns out to be not such a bad mother. After all, providing your kids with a happy future not only on your own, but also at the expense of others is smart! And how human it is...


But gray toads carry their chosen ones on themselves. How do you like it? No never. We, men, would never allow such a thing in our human society...

Female dragonflies also sometimes allow such liberties - to ride a male. But they do it so beautifully and gracefully that it remains only to admire this wonderful action.

How can gentlemen surprise you? Everything is here, as always and everywhere. Cavaliers can fight for the attention of females. And they do it - with rapture and real masculine enthusiasm.

Actually, fights between males in the animal world are impressive. They are beautiful and not cruel. Whoever it concerns - wild boars, bison, deer or hedgehogs.

Knowingly the strongest in a duel never finishes off the weak. And nature took care that the knightly weapons of animals could not cause injury to rivals.

Hedgehogs jostle with each other amusingly...

Black grouse enter the battle after a long chant. For them, it's more of a war dance.

Storks fight in a serious way. Still would! At stake is the possession of the nest. Consider it an apartment!

The male swan chases anyone who dares to approach the nest. There should be no competitors near the house.

And the capercaillie even loses the ability to hear during mating. That's why he's an asshole!

Clumsy turtles in the heat of jealousy can knock their shells.

Cocky goldeneye ducks proudly throw their heads up. Attract attention.

By the way, we have already moved on to the vocal abilities of our gentlemen. And they are capable of the most tender feelings. For example, they kiss their chosen ones like a moose. Or spoon-fed like a goldfinch. And again they dance...

That's it! It turns out that the world of our smaller brothers is full of the most gentle and caring mothers. And all of them are worthy of respect, they deserve those signs of attention that their incomparable gentlemen bestow.

They are here, nearby... And they are always ready to amaze us with their beauty, purity and tenderness.

Igor BYSHNEV, candidate of biological sciences.

Photo by the author.

Soviet Belarus No. 53 (24436). Friday, March 21, 2014

Behavior of carduelis carduelis during nesting time


On the behavior of the carduelis Cargyelia sagniesh during nesting

I.V. In the Leningrad region, where we observed the nesting of the carduelis Carcieus carnius, these birds are common, but not numerous. They cannot be attributed to well-studied species, since in the literature one can find information that requires some adjustment. The difficulty of working with goldfinches is associated with their characteristic inconstancy of nesting sites, due to which, having appeared in some area and started breeding, they then disappear, sometimes even for a long time, but after a few years they begin to nest here again. Thus, in the Zhelezo tract, where observations were made during the summer field practice of students of St. Petersburg Pedagogical University for more than 20 years, nesting of goldfinches was noted in83). This craving for the anthropogenic landscape manifests itself quite naturally in goldfinches, although at the same time not so much that they can be counted among the constant companions of man. Of the 12 nests found, 8 were located on the territory of the training base in the Zhelezo tract, 1 in the oak alley in the village. Rapti (1957), 1 in a semi-abandoned backyard garden in the village. Yam-Tesovo (1964), 1 in the park of the village. Perechitsy (1967) and 1 in a summer cottage in the village. Vyritsa (1999). When nesting in such conditions, the constant proximity of goldfinches to people made them relatively non-fearful. So, in the Zhelezo tract, despite the presence of a large number of people, they nested in trees in the center or along the edge of a vast meadow, where there were educational and sleeping buildings, a bathhouse and a dining room. Particularly noteworthy was the nesting of goldfinches for several years on a pine branch at a height of only 4-5 m from the ground near the dining room, where more than 200 people came 3 times a day. This couple fed the chicks completely fearlessly throughout the daylight hours, without taking breaks even when it was crowded near the dining room. Goldfinches also nested on a birch (but in this case at a height of 15 m), under which tables and benches were dug for0003

conversations with students. It follows from the foregoing that existence in the anthropogenic environment does not at all prevent goldfinches from fulfilling their duties of caring for chicks. This is also confirmed by the fact that sometimes their fearlessness even turns into real gullibility, when they allow you to almost touch them with your hand while on the nest (Malchevsky 1959).

Pinis sylvestris was a favorite tree species where goldfinches made their nests. On its branches, 7 nests were found at a height of 4 to 15 m. The second place was taken by the oak Quercus robus (3 nests at a height of 2.3-5 m). One nest was on a birch Betula pendula (15 m) and one on a thick spruce Picea abies (9m). The last nest fell when a very strong wind toppled the spruce, uprooting it. It must be said that the location of the nest at a height of 15 m cannot be considered normal for this species, because judging by the literature data, nests are most often located no higher than Yum (Malchevsky 1959; Malchevsky and Pukinsky 1983). All found nests were located on horizontal branches at some distance from the trunk and, as a rule, were well camouflaged.

Giving preference to settlements when choosing places for nesting, goldfinches, apparently, do not pursue the goal of nesting on any particular tree species. They simply settle where, instead of a continuous forest, there are sparse groups of tall trees among open areas where weeds grow, the seeds of which the goldfinches feed on themselves and feed their chicks.

In almost all cases the nests were made of the usual material for goldfinches, with the exception of one, when the nest seemed to be made of nothing but cotton due to the large amount of plant fluff that the female wove into its walls.

Of the 12 observed pairs, nesting of three failed: one nest with an egg at the bottom was abandoned for an unknown reason, the second was ruined, the third fell along with the spruce, on the branch of which it was located. Probably, after the loss of the nest, the birds began to re-breed, because. time has not yet been lost.

All recorded nests were found in June. However, the chicks in the nests of goldfinches in the Leningrad region. also occur in July and even August (Malchevsky, Pukinsky 1983). Throughout the first half of June, there was no revival near the nests. It was only occasionally possible to see a male and a female at the same time. Usually, females spent all this time in nests, and males performed the duties of breadwinners.

Note that there is evidence in the literature that the male feeds the incubating female exclusively with plant seeds (Spülner 1975). Once this was also noted by us, but already a day after the hatching of the chicks. Then the food brought by the male was taken away from two of them, which indeed consisted exclusively of seeds, on which, obviously, the female also fed, continuously warming the little chicks and not feeding on her own. However, it seems quite probable that under such conditions the food brought at least sometimes may consist not only of seeds, but also of a certain number of insects.

Speaking about the food of chicks, we note that the information available in the literature on this issue is extremely contradictory. On the one hand, there are indications that goldfinches feed their chicks mainly with insects, choosing them with their beaks from the corollas of flowers of fruit trees (Boehme 1954). On the other hand, there is a point of view according to which goldfinch chicks are practically herbivorous: they receive from their parents mainly immature seeds and flower ovaries and only occasionally fly and caterpillar larvae (Malchevsky 1959). The disagreements in the scientific literature caused that, when studying the behavior of goldfinches during the period of feeding chicks, we considered it necessary first of all to know what exactly they feed their chicks, since the frequency of arrivals of parents with food, the range of flights for food, and other behavioral factors are associated with the nature of the diet. characteristics. From here, already during the work with one-day-old chicks, observations of the frequency of their feeding were made not in the morning, but in the middle of the day (June 27, 1967), and completed at the same time the next day, thanks to which, before the start of work and immediately after its completion, it was possible to remove the food brought by the parents from the chicks. We have already written about some of the information obtained from this (Prokofieva 1997), but now something else is important - how the goldfinches organized their lives precisely with such a diet.

Observations have shown that on the first day in 915 two of the three chicks in the nest were fed only peeled seeds of Asteracea Asteraceae. On the second day, 6 food boluses taken from nestlings in 1630 and 1830 contained many seeds of Compositae, as well as 15 small insects - adults and larvae. In the end, it turned out that plant foods clearly predominated, and objects of animal origin were only a small addition to it. In other conditions, we specifically observed the acquisition of food by adult goldfinches, probably also for chicks. In the middle of June 2000, i.e. just when the chicks were in the nests, it was possible to see how one pair of goldfinches, side by side with the siskin Spinus spinus, chose seeds from dandelions Taraxacum officinale s.l. on a summer cottage in Vyritsa. I must say that goldfinches eat the seeds of Compositae especially willingly, although they are not limited to them. It has been found that their diet can include the seeds of 150 plant species (Glück 1984). Burdock seeds Arctium sp. we also found in the stomach of an adult in November. According to the literature, Asteracea seeds are preferred in some other periods of the year (Newton 1967; Hoppe 1976). One way or another, it follows from what has been said that in the diet of both adults and chicks, mainly plant foods are used, and this should not cause any doubts. Goldfinches are typical seed-eating finches, in which the characteristics of not only nutrition, but also behavior are in many respects different from those of typical insectivorous birds.

Seed-eating finches are known to rarely feed chicks. Our data fully support this view. 3 pairs of goldfinches with chicks of different ages were taken under observation. The work was carried out in all cases at the height of nesting, in late June-early July, but in different years (1967, 1972 and 1974). In the first nest there were

one-day-old chicks, in the second at the age of 7-8 days (they flew out a week later), in the third they were very large (you could see how they flapped their wings when their parents fed them). In accordance with the age of the chicks, the number of arrivals of parents to the nest per day was different (see table), but in all cases it was small. The mean feeding frequency varied from 0.7 to 3.8 times/hour.

Caring for chicks in three nests

(Leningrad region, end of June-beginning of July 1967, 1972 and 1974)

Indicators Age of chicks

0 days 7-8 days Before departure

"Duration of a working day" h:min 16:26 18:03 17:20

Start of feeding, h:min 5:14 4:14 5:10

End of feeding, h:min 21:40 22:17 22:30

rest, h:min 7:34 5:57 6:40

Total number of arrivals with food per day 12 48 66

Average number of arrivals per hour 0.7 2.7 3.8

Maximum number of arrivals per hour 2 4 7

Minimum number of arrivals per hour 0 2 1

Maximum intervals

between feedings, h:min 3:07 1:07 20

Feeding participation of male and female Male fed Male and female Almost always

chicks and arrived flew in with

female together with food together

Duration of heating Female perched Not heated Not for long alone

In our opinion, the driving factor reasons for the rarity of feeding is the fact that the chicks receive large portions at a time, as a result of which they feel full for a long time, and the need for frequent feeding is eliminated. It is not for nothing that they write about carduelis that they belong to those finches that, feeding their chicks mainly with seeds, gain them in large numbers at once and often fly far after them (Malchevsky 1959). Indeed, we have never seen goldfinches gathering food near the nest. But for long-distance flights and collecting a large amount of food, a lot of time is needed. It follows from the foregoing that the conclusion that the rare frequency of feeding of chicks in seed-eating finches is associated with their slow digestion of food (Denisova 1963), and not with the transfer of a large amount of food to the chicks during each arrival, most likely does not correspond to reality.

Speaking of rare food deliveries, we note that during observations of small chicks, it turned out that the male, who alone took care of their food, since the female did not leave the nest, sometimes did not bring food for a very long time. During the "working day" he was absent 4 times

more than an hour, and once, in the late afternoon, the interval between feedings even reached 3 hours 07 minutes. However, it is impossible to say with certainty that the chicks did not receive food at all all this time. According to literature data (Denisova 1963), females of seed-eating finches, having calmed down after the first feeding and after sitting for some time in the nest, begin to feed the chicks again. This is due to the fact that plant food requires some preliminary processing in the body of an adult bird. However, this point still requires verification, because. the first portion of food given to the chicks immediately after the arrival of the male does not undergo such processing. It should be noted that long intervals between nestling feedings are typical not only for the goldfinch, but also for other seed-eating finches, for example, the spruce crossbill Loxia curvirostra (Schubert 1986).

As already mentioned, only the male brought food to the little chicks. It took him 1-3 minutes to transfer it to the female. His "working day" lasted about 16.5 hours (see table). More than twice an hour, he did not fly, and in a day he brought food only 12 times. Week-old chicks no longer needed heating. Both parents flew to them with food at the same time and fed them one after another. In this regard, it seems to us not entirely correct to assert that the male, flying up to the nest, does not feed the chicks himself and does not even pass food to the female, but simply accompanies his mate (Denisova 1963). Almost always the parents flew to the big chicks at the same time, with the exception of only a few times when one bird brought food. They also did not heat the chicks, except for the delay of one of the parents in the nest for 36 minutes and 2 more times for 15 minutes when it was raining. However, it is possible that this was not due to heating. As in the case of small chicks, the intervals between feedings in the last two pairs were also sometimes long, more than an hour.

The "working day" of goldfinches with grown-up chicks lasted 1-1.5 hours longer than that of a pair with one-day-old chicks. Naturally, the total number of arrivals per day increased markedly as the chicks grew. As can be seen from the table, goldfinches flew to large chicks 5.5 times more often than to small ones, and in some cases fed them up to 7 times per hour. It is interesting that during the rain the feeding of the chicks was not interrupted. This was recorded during observations of large chicks when it rained for almost 7 hours. Meanwhile, other researchers observed that in rainy weather the development of chicks slows down, and flight is postponed until good weather (Glück 1984). During the day, there were several increases in the activity of parents in feeding chicks, but at different times of the day and in all three nests, it was also different. During the night, the chicks remained without food for 6-7.5 hours.

There are indications in the literature that adult goldfinches often swallow the feces of the chicks, especially in the first 7 days after hatching (Glück 1988). Since little chicks are apparently not yet able to properly digest the seeds of plants, their excrement is obviously of a certain value to parents. The same is true for other seed-eating finches. So, for example, from the litter of 5-day-old linnet chicks Cannabina cannabina, we extracted seeds

Fragaria yesca strawberries in such a condition that they can be easily identified. It is interesting that, according to the existing point of view, the growth rate of seedlings in seed-eating finches, such as the lentil Carpodacus erythrinus, is not lower, and sometimes even higher, when fed on grains than in nestlings fed on insects (Blagosklonov 1957). Obviously, the high energy value of plant food compensates for its incomplete digestion by the body of the chicks, as well as rare feeding. As for the latter, it is characterized not only by the fact that the parents rarely bring food, but also by the fact that during one visit to the nest, the entire brood does not always receive food, but it happens that only part of it. Thus, during the withdrawal of food from goldfinch chicks, we found that 2 times all 3 chicks were fed, and 1 time - only 2 of them. The same picture had to be observed in other seed-eating finches, lentils (Prokofieva 1958), linnet (Prokofieva 1963) and bullfinch Rug-rhula pyrrrhula (Bozhko 1971). Consequently, the chicks of these birds receive food even less often than it seems at first glance during observations of the intensity of their feeding. And this testifies in favor of the fact that plant food is really so nutritious that the chicks do not need so much of it in order for the rate of their growth and development to proceed in a normal way.

Most of the observed carduelis most actively fed their chicks in the 20th of June - early July, after which the last fledglings take place. After leaving the nest, the fledglings did not immediately leave the area of ​​the nest. In early July, one goldfinch was even caught not far from its native nest.

When analyzing the way of life of goldfinches in the nesting period, the conclusion is that due to their choice of weed seeds and insects such as proboscis, butterfly caterpillars, etc. as food objects, they should be considered useful birds. Of course, this benefit is much smaller than that provided by insectivorous birds, but it cannot be completely ignored. It should also be added that that part of the carduelis that lives in the Leningrad region all year round also feeds on the seeds of weeds in winter (Malchevsky, Pukinsky 1983). At the same time, the spread of weed seeds by carduelis, as well as other finches, is out of the question, because. passing through their digestive tract, the seeds become dissimilar. This was verified during studies of 16 species of Fringillidae in Lithuania, of which 4 species were found to be the most useful, including the goldfinch (Navasaitis 1965).


Boehme L.B. 1954. Genus carduelis // Birds of the Soviet Union. M., 5: 190-200. Blagosklonov K.N. 1957. [Bird nutrition]. Review of notes and messages received by the editorial board // Priroda 1: 106-107. Bozhko S.I. 1971. On the ecology of the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula L. ) in the parks of Leningrad// Acta biol. debrecina 9: 123-130.

Denisova M.N. 1963. On the peculiarities of rearing nestlings in some

finches Ts Uch. app. Moscow region ped. in-ta 126: 77-82. Malchevsky A.S. 1959. Nesting life of songbirds: Reproduction and postembryo-

development of forest passerine birds of the European part of the USSR. L.: 1-281. Malchevsky A.S., Pukinsky Yu.B. 1983. Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis // Birds of the Leningrad Region and adjacent territories: History, biology, protection. L., 2: 357-361.

Navasaitis A. 1965. Significance of finches in agriculture and forestry of the Lithuanian SSR // News of ornithology: Materials of the 4th All-Union. ornithol. conf. Alma-Ata: 255-256.

Prokofieva I.V. 1958. On the nutrition of nestlings of some species of forest birds

/ / Uch. app. Leningrad. ped. in-ta im. A.I. Herzen 143: 49-66. Prokofieva I.V. 1963. On the nutrition of linnet chicks // Nauchn. report higher

schools. Viol, Sciences 2: 46-48. Prokofieva I.V. 1997. The role of animal feed in the nutrition of seed-eating finches // Rus. ornithol. magazine Express Issue 16:3-9. Gluck F. 1984. Brutbiologie des Stieglitzes (Carduelis carduelis L.) // Voliere 7, 1: 7-12. Glück E. 1988. Why do parent birds swallow the faeces of their nestlings? // Experientia 44, 6: 537-539.

Hoppe R. 1976. Die Nahrung der Stieglitze // Falke 23, 1: 29-33.

Newton J. 1967. The adaptive radiation and feeding ecology of some British fmches // Ibis 109, 1: 33-98.

Schubert W. 1986. Der Fichtenkreuzschnabel (Loxia curvirostra) // Voliere 9, 8: 280-282. Spillner W.1975. Zum Brut- und Aufzuchtverhalten des Stieglitz// Falke 22, 8: 276-279.


ISSN 0869-4362

Russian Ornithological Journal 2001, Express output 144: 417-422

Audit of the Passeridae family (PasseriFORMES, Aves) in the North Palearctic

N. Balatsky

Novosibirsk Region Museum of Local Lore, Novosibirsk, 630004 Russia E-mail: kolya@nrsm.

Learn more