Monday Bird of the Week No.23 – Goldfinch


Welcome to 2017 and the first MBOW of the year! In many ways this week’s edition is suitably festive given it features on calendars, cards, and tree decorations. It’s the beautiful yet feisty Goldfinch.


My Dad tells a story of working with a keen twitcher who once nearly got fired because he ducked off a job to try spot a goldfinch that thought he’d heard passing over. That tells us a lot about the success of this little finch. Go back 40 or 50 years and it was pretty much a rarity. Today it is one of our most common birds and a species that bucks the trend of decline seen by so many others. In the last fifteen years alone it has increased by more than 80%. Why?

There seem to be two main reasons for its success. One is that it has quickly adapted to gardens, and therefore benefited from our increased volume of garden feeding. The other is that as our climate has warmed, it has taken advantage by not relying so heavily on migration. Tens of thousands of birds now stay resident over winter, meaning they can start breeding earlier and have more clutches in a season.


For a small and dainty-looking bird, regular observers will be well aware it’s actually an aggressive little thing. I’ve seen them bully much bigger birds off the feeders, and that’s nothing compared to their treatment of their own when things get heated over who is at the top of the pecking order.

Feathers fly as they ascend into the sky, locked together, their lovely chuntering calls now harsh and sharp.

They are also resilient. Last year I managed to recover one that had been grabbed by a cat. I chased the cat off and picked up the bloodied bird. Its eyes were closed and its breathing shallow and rapid. I really did think it was going to expire, from shock if nothing else. Yet after sitting there for 45 minutes without moving, it suddenly opened its eyes, lifted its head, then hopped up and off.

At the point I wrote this, this was the last in a series of scheduled MBOW posts, so even I don’t know what’s coming next week. Hopefully it’ll be something good!

Happy New Year


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5 Responses to Monday Bird of the Week No.23 – Goldfinch

  1. I’ve enjoyed this little series and am looking forward to whatever’s coming next.
    We have several Goldfinches visiting our garden – they love the two niger seed feeders we have on our fence. It was great to see them bringing the youngsters in the summer.

    • David C says:

      Thanks. They are always a treat no matter how frequently I see them.

      I’ll sit down this weekend and write as many Bird of the Week posts as I can, along with a bunch of others I’ve been meaning to write all through Christmas and New Year.

  2. Ah,a clever bird that doesn’t migrate so much. Have had several goldfinch families in my garden in London. Don’t often see them here in southern Spain.

    • David C says:

      Of course, one bad turn in the weather could make the non-migrators regret their decision and set things back. But it’s not very likely.

      It’s finny to think that you don’t see them so much in Spain as of course that would have been the destination for many of the populations that now stay in the UK.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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