The Goldfinch has been called many names by fanciers over the years, the king of birds, drink water, etc. The most recent I heard was the number one show bird. When I enquired about this, the fancier’s reply was, look at all show schedules and this bird is number one in the native section. A good reply and I must say in my mind the Goldfinch is the most popular finch whether it be for straight breeding, Muling, or Hybridising. In this article, I will talk mostly about breeding and Show goldfinches.
Breeding Goldfinches is no harder than any other of our native hardbills (with the exception of the Greenfinch). However, you cannot just put a pair in a cage or aviary and expect them to produce young.
After the show season, I would pair up my birds and start the process of getting them into breeding condition. I like to give them all the wild seeds I can find. Groundsel is normally the first weed given as it can be collected in February in abundance. I have always bred my Goldfinches in mixed aviaries and the Groundsel is devoured by all the birds.
I give my birds all the weeds I can get, chickweed, shepherd’s purse, etc. but I find that the Goldfinch only comes into breeding condition after the introduction of the Dandelion.
The Dandelion starts to bloom in April and continues into mid-May in abundance. The best time to pick and feed the dandelion to the birds is when the flower Petals have died and fallen off the plant. At this stage, all you have is the head which is full of seeds and fluff.
I pick as many as I can and keep them in a Hession sack (not plastic) as they will stay dry and last longer. The best sign of a goldfinch coming into condition is when the black on the tip of the beak turns white. Dandelions are normally by this time very scarce.
If I don’t have a large supply of chickweed I will feed the following to the birds for chick-rearing:
Sunflower hearts (all year)
Soaked Niger and Hemp mix
Lots of Lettuce
Eggfood which is made from Orlux Eggmix
Scrambled egg/milk/butter with plenty of Blue-maw
A good Finch mixture.
Goldfinches will start to nest in may, and the nest will be built from moss, twigs, and cotton wool.
The Goldfinch will usually have two rounds of chicks. On some occasions, I have seen some pairs having three rounds rearing the young right up to the end of August.
The male goldfinch is notorious for breaking eggs and if your flight is big enough two hens could be put to the same goldfinch male.
When he puts one hen down he will pester the other hen and this will take his mind off the nesting hen and the eggs. Only once in all the years of using this method did the two hens go to nest and produce young. Unfortunately using 2 hens the worst one may go to nest but that’s the luck of the draw.
Moulting in young and adult goldfinches
My young Goldfinches get all the weeds I can gather, such as:
- Wild Rape
- All Thistles &
- Above all, wild Teasel heads.
Teasel heads are picked in late September when they are really ripe. All of the Natives will feed on it but the Goldfinch with its long beak has no problem extracting the seeds from the plant head.
This also helps the blaze moult quicker and cleaner as the spikes on the Teasel head combs the blaze. Goldfinches are seldom ready for the early shows as the blaze takes a long time moult and the true colour takes longer to come through.
Showing Goldfinches – Preparations
I always let my Goldfinches moult in aviaries as I feel that they thrive and color out better with plenty of space and a supply of freshwater every day for bathing.
The two or three goldfinches that I would want to show will be put in show cages for one to two days. They would get sprayed a little, and a lot of time would be spent with them to steady them. They would be released back into the flights where they bathe in freshwater. The process would start again after another 3-4 days.
The ideal goldfinch for show
The ideal show bird should have a good expansive blaze (red mask) extending well down the throat, behind the eye, and onto the skull. It should also have a clear razor cut edge.
The color in the blaze should be a rich Vermilion red and be free from black in or on the face and around the base of the mandible.
The black cap should be wide on the top of the head and not broken by light feathering.
The wings should have visible golden flights with well-defined markings known as buttons on the wings and tail.
The body color must be well tanned on the chest and flanks. All tannings being even and clear cut and well defined. It should have a good quality of feather and be in good condition.
The bird must be well proportioned & bold and above all be staged in a standard clean show cage. If you have a bird with all these qualities you have a winner.
I have bred maybe 8-10 birds like this over the years and won the best bird in a show at the INBBS a few times and many other shows including the Irish National.
The Goldfinch has so many quality requirements needed to win best in the show. Let me just say if you get one, hold onto it as they are few and far between.
Showing Goldfinches standards
As large as possible. (Within the natural limit of the species)
Nicely rounded full head with a well-filled cone-shaped body of bold and upstanding appearance.
Colour & markings
Expansive postage stamp blaze of bright rich vermillion red extending well behind eyes into the forehead, with as large as possible drop well down the front, with a clean-cut razor edge.
Brown cheek markings, broad solid black well-defined head markings, rich brown tannings on breast and flanks extending well down, contrasting well on the whitish body and rich brown back, wings black with even well-defined whitish buttons, and bright golden yellow wing flash. Tail black with well-defined whitish buttons and moons.
Similar but with less extensive blaze, colour not so bright or clean cut. Head often grizzled or flecked with brown.
Long-bodied birds, rounded blaze. Too much black in blaze particularly around the base of mandible and eyes, showing black guttural lines, or other colour impurities. Flecking or grizzling in head or white spreading into the nape. Large white expanse on neck and chest area. Eye defects, deformities, poor presentation, insufficiently trained.
The tendency for hens to be smaller than males. Hens and also current year males may show brown flecking or grizzle on the head.
- Breeding Linnets. How to create an ideal environment.
- Mules and Hybrids. How to Breed Mules and Hybrids.
- Sexing Goldfinches. How To Differentiate Male & Female Goldfinch.
- The redpoll. How to breed redpolls in captivity.
- Keeping Siskins. How to breed siskins.
- How to breed and show goldfinches. Quality goldfinches.
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How many pairs of gold finches would it be possible to breed in a 6’x6’x6′ height Avery with out to much squabbling