What Do Goldfinches Eat? 17 Foods They Love

American goldfinch perched with back towards camera
© iStock.com/impr2003

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley

Published: February 13, 2022

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Goldfinches are small colorful birds. They are very spirited, loving absolution, and accepting of people. Goldfinches are identifiable by focusing on their round head, short neck, petite body, and short pointed cone-like beak. Their plumage depends on seasonal changes because goldfinches are part of the Aves breed capable of molting. 

Goldfinches are a branch of the finch family found in Europe and North America. Despite the different locality, eating habits are the same, given that they are members of the same family. 

The anatomical structure, functioning, and behavioral patterns of goldfinches are designed to aid their survival. We take a perusal of the feeding habits of this vivacious creature and answer the question, “what do goldfinches eat?”.

What Do Goldfinches Eat?

What Do Goldfinches Eat
Goldfinches eat seeds and insect.

Goldfinches eat seeds and insects. They are either herbivores or omnivores, depending on their species. Goldfinches that majorly rely on seeds/grains (being embryos that are indispensable to the reproductive cycle of plants) are referred to as granivores. 

Here, we made a list of some of the foods of the four types of goldfinches, knowing very well we can not possibly exhaust the sheer volume of just one plant species. Also, goldfinches’ diet is based on the climatic region of their habitat.  According to a study in the Journal of BirdLife Australia, the analysis of the gut contents of two hundred and forty goldfinches showed nineteen plants from the family Compositae, fourteen other plants, and ten herbivorous insects

Here’s a complete list of food goldfinches eat:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Dipsacus
  • Wide variety of weed: Dandelion, Cosmos, Goatsbeard, Lavender, Ragweed
  • Flower nectar
  • Worms: mealworms, budworms 
  • Termites
  • Maggots
  • Tree buds; Birch, Pines, Alder, Hemlock, Spruce
  • Asters seed
  • Nyjer (Niger)
  • Thistle seed
  • grass seeds
  • The sap of trees such as; Maple, Beech and Birch
  • Berries
  • Drupes: Cherries, Peaches, Plums,
  • Pomes: Apples, pears
  • Insects: Flies, Crickets, grasshoppers, Beetles, Aphids, Moths, Gnats, Caterpillars, and many other herbivorous insects.

How Do Goldfinches Obtain Their Food?

lesser goldfinch chirping in tree

Goldfinches are herbivores, omnivores, or granivores, based on their species

©iStock.com/Sunil Singh

Goldfinches have a programmed sense of camaraderie, and they are often heard communicating by singing. So when it is time to eat, you can see the sense of community as they forage for food together. The beak of the goldfinch is shaped like a cone and capable of extracting nectar from flowers. 

The goldfinch loves food sources with soft epicarp, which it can access since they are primarily found in trees where it nests. The legs, feet, lightweightness, and sense of balance of the goldfinch play a vital role in its ability to access seeds of plants. 

Goldfinches have been spotted eating seeds from a plant while hanging upside down. This feat would be impossible if the listed abilities of the goldfinch were absent. 

Their beaks are not for hard surfaces like tree barks or fruits with hard epicarps. Apart from liquids like nectar or sap from trees, every other solid food travels to the gizzard, which contains stones that hasten the process of digestion since birds generally don’t have teeth to masticate.

What Do Babies of Goldfinches Eat?

Goldfinches breed late in summer, and what the chicks eat is quite different from what the adults can ingest. The babies of goldfinches can’t eat seeds or grains like the adults because they are incapable of digesting them due to their solidity. 

Baby goldfinches require a lot of protein for their development. The sources of protein readily available to the goldfinch are herbivorous insects. It hunts and feeds the chicks with adequate nutrients, so they grow properly.

Who Competes with Goldfinches for Food?

Goldfinches eat seeds primarily and sometimes insects too. These two food sources are very low on the food chain, which means many competitors. From the class of aves to which goldfinches belong, there are just too many members who compete for the same thing. 

Then there are other members of the animal kingdom, such as monkeys, who are arboreal, sharing habitat with most birds. Even humans are competing, being omnivorous, and we do love our fleshy fruits. Pine siskins are birds that mix with goldfinches during colder seasons, sharing their food and habitat.

What are Goldfinches’ Predators?

Goldfinches have predators. Despite their chirpy disposition, they are not particularly combative birds. Some animals are smaller than the goldfinch but very aggressive. Birds of prey, carnivorous and omnivorous mammals see the goldfinch as prey. Here is a list of goldfinches predators:

  • Snakes – especially garter snakes
  • Cats – both wild and domesticated ones
  • Weasel
  • Squirrels
  • Birds –  Most birds of prey, including the American Kestrel (also known as the sparrow hawk), Blue Jays and Pygmy owls, are well-known predators
  • Even ants can attack the goldfinch’s nest.

Yes, it’s been said that the goldfinch is non-combative. This is very much true, but this does not mean that it does not take measures to protect itself and its young against predators. 

Goldfinches are communal, and they find strength in numbers. They forage together as a collective, utilizing more eyes for a broader search. They use these same systems as a defense by alarming the commune when a predator is near.

Can You Keep Goldfinches as Pets?

goldfinch perched on a branch with flowers

Goldfinches are communal birds so they forage for food together


Goldfinches are communal birds, meaning they strive in groups. Separating them and raising them in captivity is not ideal for their survival. You ask why? The reason is that goldfinches are wonderful imitators, and when you host them with other birds, they tend to copy their call and forget their own. 

This hinders their ability to get mates and breed. Countries make it illegal to keep goldfinches as pets for conservative reasons. 

A Compromise?

What is more accepted is to be a bird feeder, where you construct a small birdhouse so goldfinches can come and go easily. The birdhouse should be raised to a position inaccessible to predators. Provide feed to eat, such as millet, niger, tiny black seed, and berries. These are attractive to goldfinches. 

Making water available is much more important than food. Water is essential to these birds. Also, avoid putting rotten fruits since these would bring predators to that area.

Goldfinches are lovely to watch and pleasant to listen to as they bask in liberty. A much better thing is to contribute to the conservation of these creatures.

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