American Goldfinch
Plant associations: Sunflower (Helianthus annuus ), thistle, common dandelion
Natural feed: Seed of thistle, dandelion, ragweed, goldenrod, sunflower, coneflower, coreopsis, marigold, lettuce, and cosmos
Commercial feed: Black oil and hulled sunflower seed, millet, and thistle (Nyger ) seed
Feeder: Tube feeder, thistle feeder, hopper feeder, elevated platform feeder
Habitat: Weedy fields, orchards, meadows with scattered trees, forest clearings, or nearly any terrain in winter. Goldfinches love to bathe and will crowd water features and bird baths.

Find illustrations of Portland’s winter birds, with details about attracting them to your garden, by clicking on the slideshow link above.

According to Karen Munday of the Audubon Society of Portland (, bird feeders are great—as a supplemental food source. “Birds don’t need feeders,” she says. “They need native food sources and habitat.” Here are a few basic habitat requirements:

Natural food sources. Trees, shrubs, and herbs that supply fruit, berries, nuts, flower nectar, and insect populations that are edible to birds. Different plants attract different kinds of birds. Native plants are preferable, but many noninvasive ornamentals have plenty to offer.

Water. Water can range from a pond or stream to a simple, inch-deep pan of water that’s kept clean and fresh. Running water, still water, streams, and lakes all attract different species.

Shelter. Depending on the bird, ideal shelter could include brush piles, hedgerows and shrubby thickets, fields of tall grass, weed patches, tall evergreen trees, or tree snags. An important element of shelter is safety from non-native predators—that means keeping domestic cats indoors.

This article appeared in the December 2009 issue of Portland Monthly.
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