Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is arguably St Nicks’ most colourful bird – although Bullfinch is a close contender!
These black, white, brown, yellow and red (yes, count the colours!) finches are present at St Nicks all year round, and they breed on the reserve. They are widespread resident breeding birds throughout most of the UK and continental Europe.
They can be found almost anywhere at St Nicks, but listen out for their delightful twittering “tickelitt” song. You can hear it here. Their stout beaks are ideal for crunching open seeds, and they really like teasels, thistles and alder cones, all of which can be found in the Bund Path area near and above the Dragon Stones. Goldfinches are also common near the Environment Centre, Osbaldwick Beck and the Kingfisher Culvert by Tang Hall Beck.
Goldfinches are gregarious birds, and often form flocks, known delightfully as “charms”. We have, at St Nicks, recorded charms of up to 50 Goldfinches, but normally the flocks are between six and ten birds.
Males and females are alike in appearance – but we guess that Goldfinches can tell the difference! Juveniles, which can be seen in the Spring and Summer, up to August to October, have a grey-brown head, and lack the adults’ striking red, white and black pattern, which they gradually acquire. But the yellow, black and white tail patterns are always present in the young birds.
Although we’ve seen plenty of young Goldfinches at St Nicks, we have yet to find a nest, which is a delicately woven cup of plant material, including thistledown, usually well hidden in the upper branches of small trees. The chicks spend about two weeks in the nest, are fed by regurgitation and depend on their parents for food for about a week after fledging.
Oh, and Goldfinches love to splash around in our two becks!