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Let's Talk Finches / Attracting Finches to your yard

There are approximately 17 finch species in North America including Grosbeaks, redpolls, crossbills and pine siskins (right here in our backyard) The MOST common you will probably see are the American Goldfinch, House Finch, and Pine Siskins.Bright yellow American Goldfinches are one of the favorites of backyard birders. They are entertaining to watch with their vibrant, beautiful feathers and are not hard to attract to your yard. American Goldfinches molt their feathers twice a year, once in the winter and once before mating season! These bright yellow feathers are not always as bright. In the winter, they become a dull green or gray making them harder to spot. But they can still be around all year, not just in spring and summer, because not all finches migrate in the winter.  Finches may only migrate if the temperatures get below freezing AND there isn't food available. With the following tips we can help you to attract finches to your yard ALL year long. 
Picking the right feeder
Finches will essentially eat off any feeder holding the seeds they love but we will list a few here that are specific to finches and will help to Attract them. The best feeders to use are Finch Tube Feeders, Finch Socks, Finch Mesh Style feeders and Tray or Hopper style feeders that hold Sunflower Hearts and Safflower seed that the finches love to eat. Because finches are smaller birds, they are able to access the seeds in socks, but these feeders are all designed to hold food that the finches love.
Use the right seed
Fresh seed is the most important element here. Nyjer seed is one of the seeds on the market that goes "bad" the fastest. And it doesn't "look" bad, it just gets dried out easily. Two things to consider in storing your seed. If you store it below 72 degrees it helps to extend the life of the seed (the refrigerator or freezer is a good option to keep it fresh longer). The second thing to consider is Where you get the seed from. Bigger Box stores such as Menards, Home Depot and Lowes tend to "store" their seed in greater quantities in the back and by the time it makes it to your feeder you aren't too sure how old it is. My rule of thumb is to not buy more than your birds will consume in about a month. If you currently have Nyjer seed and don't know how to tell if it's dried out or not then just take a few pieces of the Nyjer and squeeze them between your two thumb nails and pinch them. If you have oil on your nails then your seed should still be good for the finches. If you do not see any wetness or oil then it is likely that your seed is old and dried out and the finches won't touch it. Now let's talk seed! You can feed the finches the following...Nyjer, Fine Hearts, a mixture of Nyjer and Fine Hearts together, OR Black Oil sunflower seeds and White/Golden Safflower seeds in a hopper or tray style feeder. All seeds should be fresh and to ensure fresh seed I would make sure you get your seed from a small locally owned bird store who gets their seed fresh weekly (like us here at For The Wild Birds) We get our seed weekly from Des Moines Feed and Seed! The American goldfinch's diet consists of mostly seeds and they love Nyjer Seed and Sunflower seeds. These seeds are high in oil and easy to eat with their smaller beaks.
Get Your Yard Ready
Growing specific plants can help attract certain birds to your yard. Finches like a yard that has an open, grassy field like space. Plant grassy, weedy species, as well as plants and flowers with many seeds. Goldfinches are known to enjoy thistle plants. They eat the thistle plant seeds and use the mature thistle down in their nests during breeding season. Other plants that the goldfinch will use include cottonwood fluff, cattails, and milkweed. And, as always, it's important to have a water source close by for them. Preferably, unfrozen, running water (or you can put a water wiggler in your bath).
Add Brightly Colored Ribbons & Plants
Birds have an extremely developed sensitivity to color and are attracted to bright colors not commonly found in nature. Adding something like a colorful ribbon can help attract finches, as the movement in the wind can make them feel like another bird has already explored the new feeder and found it safe. You can also use colorful and flowering plant species in your garden so birds on the fly can spot your finch friendly backyard from the sky.  
Finches Need Clean Feeders
Finches will avoid feeders with dry, moldy, or unclean seed. When it rains, the seed can also become clumpy and the birds won't be able to pull it out of the tiny holes. Adding a weather guard to your feeder can prevent the seeds from getting wet and clumping. I usually keep a weather guard close by and just add it to my feeder on days it's going to rain! You can also try an all natural enzyme called Feeder Fresh which you just mix in with your seed or layer it at the bottom of your feeder (where the problems mostly occur). It works much like the enzyme in Cat Liter that helps absorb moisture to keep the seed dry! This is a no-brainer during early spring.  If I do not use a weather guard OR the Feeder fresh then I am having to clean my feeders out after every rain. And speaking on the cleanliness of feeders, I highly suggest cleaning your feeders once every couple of weeks (especially if it has been hot and humid) or at LEAST once a month!! A dirty finch feeder is the Biggest reason you won't attract and keep finches. A quick thorough wash with Hot water and dawn dish soap should do the trick. If your feeder has mold or debris and needs a deeper clean you can use a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach to scrub the feeder, then let it soak for 15 minutes (or over night), Then rinse well and let totally dry before you refill your feeder with fresh seed! Your finches will thank you! 
Give Black Oil Sunflower seed a try
Finches also love black oil sunflower seeds. It's high in fat content and is a healthy source of nutrition for them. Because it's too large to fit in a finch feeder, there are a wide variety of feeder styles for offering sunflower seed. Such as Hopper Feeders, Tray feeders, Mixed seed tube feeders, etc. And by using these styles of feeders you will likely attract other bird species to your yard as well. 
Finches Rarely Finish their Dinner!! 
Finches are notorious for emptying only half of their feeder and leaving the rest. What I do when this happens is, when refilling my feeder, I empty out the bottom half of the seed they didn't eat (when I Know it's still fresh) then I fill the feeder up halfway with fresh seed and put the leftover seed on the top. This ensures that the finches finish their "leftovers" from the day before and you don't waste a bunch of fresh seed! Win Win for Everyone. 
I hope this answers most, if not all, of your finch questions! Happy Birding from all of us here at For The Wild Birds 
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