Finches Come in All the Colors of the Rainbow
Beautiful and musical, Mother Nature has created finches for our pleasure. They are most helpful when ridding us of weed seeds, and serenading us with their cheerfully expressive songs. Smaller finches range in size from 5" to 6”, while grosbeaks are the largest at 8”. Besides seeds and grains, finches love fruits and berries.
Both Cassin’s Finch and the Common Redpoll are classified as red finches. Redpolls are an irruptive species, meaning they occur in large numbers where they don’t usually appear. This happens because they follow the food source. If that source is more plentiful in a different area, that’s where they head—by the hundreds of thousands. Socially oriented and extremely talkative, they descend upon backyard bird feeders in winter to early spring, depending upon the temperature.
Redpolls live and forage in the boreal forests of Canada and the arctic tundra. When they showed up at my feeders shortly after Christmas this year, I was thrilled. My personal count was 75, but I know that lots of backyard birders saw many hundreds of these awesome little finches this past winter. Redpolls seem to often follow the food sources with an adventurous aplomb!
House finches are usually red, but this orange variant happens because of their diet. Favorite foods include mustard seeds, mulberries, apricots, peaches, strawberries, figs, sunflower seeds and millet. Whether they are orange or red is dependent upon the amount of carotenoids that are present in the food sources. Another very social bird, they are fond of nesting very near humans and their possessions. House finches are not fussy about where they live; a hanging plant, trellised ivy, dryer vent or window ledge will do nicely, thank you.
Ah, my little drops of bright sunshine! That would be Goldfinches. Even if it is cloudy and overcast, the cheery yellow of my goldfinches always brightens my day.
I provide two tube feeders; one is filled with sunflower seeds and the other with nyjer or thistle seeds. Often they can be seen on both at the same time.
Purple coneflowers, thistles and wildflowers of all kinds that produce seeds heads are magnets for these energetic fliers. In the wintertime their feathers change from yellow to olive green.
The year round drab yellow/olive green of the female serves to successfully camouflage her at the nest and while foraging under the bird feeders.
Greenfinches are small European and Asian finches that love hedges and farmlands. Their beautiful songs have so captured the hearts of all who hear them that they are regularly caught and caged like parakeets. In the wild they are fond of travelling in large flocks and foraging for seeds and berries.
They remind me of female American Goldfinches.
The gorgeous Blue Grosbeak is not commonly seen. Its preferred habitat is hedgerows, thick undergrowth, grassy hillsides and weedy ditches. A shy bird, it does not live near humans on purpose!
I have occasionally heard their lyrical song, which is similar to a purple finch, when I walk my rural road in the late spring. There are deep ditches on either side of my road, and grassy fields where the underground gas lines follow up and down the country hills. With no houses nearby, and woods and thick underbrush in which to hide, this is prime territory for blue grosbeaks. I hope one day to catch a glimpse!
Indigo Buntings have captured my fancy of late because this is the first year they have chosen to stick around and entertain me with their awesome color. My Mom used to see them quite often at her bird baths.
So I am very pleased to have indigo buntings, male and female, foraging under the bird feeders. Adding fruits to the sunflower seeds seems to have done the trick! Sweet, sweet, chew, chew is their distinctive song while perched, then when they fly I hear them utter a funny buzzing sound.
Last, but not least, are my gorgeous Purple Finches. I absolutely love their raspberry color. In fact they are also referred to as raspberry finches. These entertaining 6” charmers often come to my feeders in the wintertime. This past winter I had them show up in a snowstorm; braving the wind and snow, they continued to fill their beaks.
There are years when I don’t see them at all, and wonder where they have gone. This year they have been present since late winter, much to my delight. The female is almost a carbon copy of the female rose-breasted grosbeaks, only on a much smaller scale.
Because white is the combination or presence of all the colors of the rainbow, I have included the White Winged Snow Finch. Only 6” in size, this beautiful bird is really a sparrow rather than a true finch. It eats mainly seeds and insects, and enjoys frequenting ski resorts throughout Europe!
I can’t include white without also including black! So here is my beloved Rose-Breasted Grosbeak in all its glory. He’s about 8” with a beautiful voice to match his contrasting black, white and red colors. These birds have been visiting my feeders ever since we moved here, some 25 years now. They are fond of sunflower seeds, but love oranges, grapefruit, raisins, tree nuts, cherries and raspberries.
I eagerly await their springtime arrivals, and am pleased to see the newest generation appear at the bird feeders in early summer. Once the parents have successfully fledged their young, they head for the deep woods. The younger birds stay around for a couple of weeks, and then they disappear as well.
Their short stays grace my gardens with sweet songs and colorful sights, but it will be many months before I see and hear them again.
Wild Foods Finches Love to Eat
Fruits, Flower Nectar
Seeds, Seed Heads
Grow Beautiful Artichokes to Attract Finches
Artichokes are easy to grow almost anywhere in the U.S., except where the summer is much too hot--that would be Florida. If your climate conditions support moist summers and mild winters, then you will probably be able to grow artichokes year round.
If your Zone is colder than an 8, artichokes can be grown as annuals each year. If you have a growing season of 90 or more days, then you will be okay. Artichokes are grown successfully as far north as the state of Maine. It is best to start them indoors in early spring and transplant them outside. In the late summer you will be eating fresh artichokes!
Growing Artichokes by groworganicpeacefulvalley
Three Ways to Grow Artichokes
- Shoots from existing plants
- Dormant roots
Growing Artichokes from Seeds:
Don't forget that artichokes are heavy feeders. Your seeds will need to be fertilized with fish emulsion or a similar product when first planted and as they continue to grow.
Seeds should be started indoors in 4" containers, and transplanted when the ground is warm and all danger of frost has past. Additionally, the seedlings should be approximately 8" to 10" tall, have strong stems and 2 sets of true leaves when set out in the ground.
Place them 5' to 6' apart to allow lots of room for the large plants to develop. Before placing them in the ground, add organic fertilizer or compost and 1/2 cup of bonemeal or bloodmeal to each planting hole. In mid summer, top dress with more organic fertilizer to make sure your artichokes are healthy and happy.
Hint: Plant more seeds than you would normally because not all of them will produce true artichoke plants. Remove the seedlings that don't look healthy or strong and transplant the rest.
Growing from Shoots or Roots--Preferred Method
Prepare the planting bed as described in the 2 1/2 minute video. Make sure to add organic compost or fertilizer. Leave plenty of room between the plants or roots so each one will receive enough nutrients. And at the end of the season, enjoy a very tasty treat. Your finches and other seed-eating birds will be pleased to see the wonderful seed heads full of nutrition just for them!
Have you seen finches in all the colors of the rainbow?
How Do Birds Get Their Colors
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Connie Smith