The goldfinch, as far as its diet is concerned, is a juggler when it comes to foraging. It uses acrobatic techniques to reach for and eat its food. It collects the seeds from the ground or it hangs from a twig, bending it in order to reach for them. It hangs with its head facing down, eating as many seeds it can find on its left and right.
It hangs on thin twigs while bending them, so as to easily reach for the seeds which are on their tops. If the twigs are too thin for its weight, it will catch 5-6 of them, bend them and continue as described above.
The goldfinch can hang upside down, its back facing downwards and eat with its beak upwards. If the seeds are damp, it consumes them whole. It peels the mature seeds while eating their insides.
With its long beak, it pulls out seeds that lie deep in the plant’s shoot until it removes them. If this is not easy, it uses its whole body, shaking it to from side to side so as to remove them. If they lie deeper, it opens the shoot’s cross-section, with its beak, until it reaches them and manages to pull them out.
These foraging techniques are taught by the parents, and in all probability the goldfinches that we breed will never learn them.
Goldfinch diet in breeding conditions
Generally it is a bird that has become adept in foraging and the simultaneous use of its head, beak and feet for its consumption. Based on research, we know that all kinds of goldfinches share the same diet.
The goldfinches that we breed need dry seeds, sprouted seeds and green vegetables, so we can simulate, as much as possible, their natural diet and have healthy birds, able to reproduce.
In nature, a goldfinch’s diet alternates during the spring months, as compared to winter. We should achieve this by enriching the basic seed mixture that we provide, but not abruptly. Abrupt dietary changes cause intestinal problems to goldfinches, which are very sensitive to such conditions.
The same research on nutrition reveals that the goldfinch feeds on a variety of 152 different seeds.
The mixture I use to feed the goldfinches I breed contains the following seeds:
- White Perilla
- Weeds’ seeds
- Kardi Seeds
- Himalayan Poppy
- Peeled sesame
- White salad seeds
- Clover seeds
- Two kinds of grass seeds
- Peeled oats
- Wheat, Two kinds of milk thistle
- Japanese millet
- Peeled sunflower seeds
- Red Rapeseed
- Cannabis seeds, Niger
- Canary seed
- Sow thistle
- Yellow Linseed
Depending on the season, I enrich it with:
- Peeled wheat
- Bella di Notte
- Black sunflower seed
- Plantago major
In every cage there is a pan with an available mixture of natural soil, shells and minerals, so they can choose what is useful for their diet.
Diet during reproduction period
Until now, in the articles and the books that include the breeders’ opinions on the goldfinch’s diet during reproduction period, the views are contradictory. Some believe that animal proteins are vital, so they choose to enrich their food with warms and ant eggs, while others profess that seeds are enough during this period.
Personally, I have opted for the first dietary plan, and I provide them, during preparation period, 4-5 warms, 3 times a week per pair. When the female hatches the eggs, I provide smaller amounts (4 warms per pair each week).
From hatching until the chicks abandon the nests, I give 6-8 warms daily and ant eggs.
During the reproduction period, I enrich the food with milk thistle seeds. This seed, in nature, appears late in spring and this is why perhaps goldfinches start to breed so late, as it is their favorite seed. The goldfinch’s long beak is the ideal tool for gathering these seeds that are deep inside the plant.
As far as the egg food mixture is concerned, I use a ready-made dry mixture, which I enrich as follows. I add well boiled eggs (at least 16 minutes to prevent disease transmission), spirulina, “Mariano thistle” seeds, pollen, vitamins, honey, insects, probiotics, herbs and carrot.
It is important that birds have got used to egg food before feeding the chicks right away, so no adjustment period is needed during the delicate days of their nurture. For this reason, throughout the year, I give a teaspoon for each bird weekly, and I have not encountered such problems.