Keeping, breeding and showing the Goldfinch. Print


By Owen Welsh.


The Goldfinch has been called many names by fanciers over the years, the king of birds, drink water etc etc. The most recent I heard was the number one showbird. When I enquired about this the fanciers reply was, look at all show schedules and he 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.






Breeding the Goldfinch

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 and Groundsel is normally the first weed given as it can be collected in February in abundance. I have always bred my Goldfinches in mixed aviarys and the Groundsel is devoured by all the birds.

I give my birds all the weeds I can get, chickweed, sheperd'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 dandalion 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 and if I dont 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 Bluemaw, and a good Finch mixture.


Goldfinches will start to nest in may, and the nest will be built from moss, twigs,and cottonwool. The Goldfinch will usually have two rounds of chicks and on ocassions I have seen some pairs having three rounds rearing the young right up to the end of August. The cock is notorious for breaking eggs and if your flight is big enough two hens could be put to the cock. When he puts one hen down he will pester the other hen and this will take his mind off the nestinsg hen and the eggs.







Only once in all the years of using this method did the two hens go to nest and produce young. Unfortunatley using 2 hens the worst one may go to nest but thats the luck of the draw.

My young Goldfinches get all the weeds I can gather, wild Rape, Knotgrass, Pepsicari, Blackheads, all Thistles & above all wild Teasel heads. Teasel heads are picked 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.








Preparing the Goldfinch for the Showscene.

I always let my Goldfinches moult in aviarys as I feel that they thrive and colour out better with plenty of space and a supply of fresh water every day for bathing. The two or three goldfinches that I would want to show will be put in showcages for one to two days, 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 fresh water and the process would start again after another 3-4 days. The ideal showbird should have a good expansive blaze extending well down the throat, behind the eye and onto the skull. It should also have a clear razor cut edge.The colour 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 colour must be well tanned on the chest and flanks. All tannings being even and clear cut and well defined. It should have good quality of feather and be in good condition. the bird must be well proportioned and 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 best bird in 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 show. Let me just say if you get one, hold onto it as they are few and far between.

Show points are a follows:

  • Size: 10 points
  • Shape: 10 points
  • Head: 35 points
  • Wings and Tail: 5 points
  • Body Colour: 15 points
  • Quality of feather and condition: 15 points
  • Staging and steadiness: 10 points



Good luck to all you breeders and exhibitors for manys the year to come.




Owen Welsh


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