European Goldfinch Nesting: A Complete Guide

While goldfinches are almost always red in the face, that isn’t embarrassment about their house. These beautiful birds create some very neat nests, and there is a very good chance that goldfinches could nest in your garden. Let’s take a tour of a goldfinch’s nest in this complete nesting guide, shall we?

Goldfinches begin building their nests in late March and nest right up until September. They make a very neat and compact nest using moss, grass, wool and hair. The cup is very deep, and this is to protect the 3-7 eggs they lay per clutch.

We’re only scratching the surface of the goldfinches nesting habits. As we’ll see, its nesting habits are very interesting and unlike many other birds.

European goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) like to nest in loose colonies. So if you have one pair of goldfinches nesting in your garden, there is a high chance of other goldfinches being present in the same area. They build their nests in areas with scattered trees and hedges, so there is a good chance of seeing nesting goldfinches in gardens.

The nest of a Goldfinch, with chicks inside

The nest of a Goldfinch, with chicks inside

Where do European goldfinches nest?

Goldfinches like to build their nests in areas that have scattered trees and some hedges or shrubs. So, our gardens are actually the perfect environment for goldfinches to nest in. you may see some goldfinches nest in hedgerows and along the sides of farmers fields too.

Many small birds like the goldfinch like to nest in dense areas of cover, but not the goldfinch. Instead, they cleverly place their nests so that they are hidden by twigs and leaves at the end of a swaying branch several metres above the ground.

This is why their nests must be constructed very well so that they withstand the elements.

Goldfinch sat on nest

Goldfinch sat on nest

What does a goldfinch nest look like?

Goldfinches are very clever at hiding their nests from predators. They often choose a swaying branch to build their nests on, so the cup of the nest must be woven very precisely to keep the eggs safe. It is also very deep, this ensures the eggs, and the chicks won’t fall out of the nest on a windy day.

The interior of a goldfinch nest looks pretty typical for a bird’s nest. It is a deep cup-like structure. However, the exterior of the nest is believed to be created to offer camouflage. They make the interior of the nest from grass, twigs, moss, hair and wool. They then line the outside with lichen and moss. It is believed that goldfinches do this in order to make the nests blend into the tree.

European Goldfinch nest with eggs inside

European Goldfinch nest with eggs inside

What time of year do goldfinches nest?

Goldfinches nest between April and August. However, they start to build their nests at the end of March to prepare for the nesting season. Also, some chicks can still be in the nest in September. So, the nesting period of goldfinches is often considered to start in late March and go until early September.

How long do goldfinches nest for?

Goldfinches typically nest between April and August, but some hang on until early September. It all depends on when their young are ready to leave the nest.

Most goldfinches will attempt two broods in a year, with some going for three. Each has a fledge period of about 18 days. So, if the goldfinches are successful in having three broods in a year, it is likely that they will remain in the nest into September.

Goldfinch perched on a hazelnut tree

Goldfinch perched on a hazelnut tree

How do goldfinches build their nests?

A goldfinch nest is made from a variety of materials, including mosses, twigs, grasses, lichens, wool and hair. It has a deep cup for the eggs to nestle into.

The shape of a goldfinches nest is very typical of a standard bird’s nest. However, it is the construction and how they ensure its security that is interesting.

Goldfinches construct their nests very precisely. They interweave all of the materials they use and ensure it is neat and strong. They will often then use spider silk to attach it to the tree.

This is because these birds nest at the end of branches that sway in the wind. So they anchor their nests to the tree to ensure that it doesn’t fall.

Goldfinch collecting rope for nesting materials

Goldfinch collecting rope for nesting materials

When do baby goldfinches leave the nest?

Baby goldfinches will leave the nest about 18 days after they have hatched.

The female goldfinch will sit on the eggs for about 12 days. Once hatched, baby goldfinches are in the nest for between 13-18 days. After this, the baby goldfinches from the surrounding area form a flock and go in search of food.

Juvenile Goldfinch perched on a branch

Juvenile Goldfinch perched on a branch

How many broods do goldfinches have?

Goldfinches will often try to have two broods per year, but some go for three. Usually, goldfinches only try for three broods if one of the two first broods was unsuccessful. If goldfinches do have a successful third brood, you will likely see chicks in the nest in early September.

Do goldfinches return to the same nest?

Goldfinches often do not use the same nest year after year. They will return to the same nesting grounds if they had a successful nesting period the year before but will build another nest. In fact, some sources state that goldfinches don’t even use the same nest for a second brood. Instead, they construct a brand new nest for each brood.

Goldfinch during winter

Goldfinch during winter

What do European goldfinches eggs look like?

Goldfinches lay small white eggs with some reddish-brown speckles covering them. They are about 17mm tall and 13mm wide. Usually, the female will lay between 3-7 eggs per clutch.

What month do goldfinches lay eggs?

Goldfinches begin laying their eggs in April and sit on them for 12-13 days. They will try to have two broods per season, so once these eggs have hatched and the chicks have fledged (about 18 days after they hatch), they will lay a further clutch.

European Goldfinch feeding three hungry chicks in the nest

European Goldfinch feeding three hungry chicks in the nest

Do goldfinches nest in bird boxes?

Goldfinches don’t tend to use bird boxes, as they are not cavity nesters in the wild. A small nesting box might encourage them to nest, but it is rare. If you have a tree or some large shrubs in your garden, though, these would be the perfect place for a goldfinch to build its nest.

Expert Q + A

Question

How long do goldfinches take to build a nest in captivity?

BirdFact Team

It generally takes around a week for goldfinches to build nests, and in captivity, it should be a similar timeframe, if not slightly quicker.

The best materials to provide include coconut fibre, jute, cotton pieces, cotton wool, etc.

It's also recommended to provide two nesting sites, in opposite ends of the cage, to allow a suitable and preferred place to be selected.

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