Goldfinches, the Vegan Birds

Our Cup Plants (Silphium perfoliatum) are full of Goldfinches these days. Goldfinches love Cup Plant seeds. Also Echinacea seeds, Sunflower (Helianthus) seeds, and Thistle seed, among others. But of those 4, I only have Cup Plants.

Goldfinch on Cup Plant

Goldfinches eat seeds almost exclusively – they are vegan birds. Any insects consumed are eaten by accident.


Seeds are especially plentiful now, so the Goldfinches should be happy. The Cup Plant flowers have almost all become seed heads.


Though we are heading into autumn, the Goldfinches still have their bright yellow summer plumage.


In this picture you can see the Cup Plant seed in the Goldfinch’s beak. Getting photos of Goldfinches can be a challenge. They fly off every time we open the front door, which is close to the main patch of Cup Plant. To get these pictures I had to sit quietly on a lawn chair until the Goldfinches settled back onto the Cup Plant to resume their noshing.


Which seeds do the Goldfinches eat in your garden?

40 Comments on “Goldfinches, the Vegan Birds”

  1. Tell me about the goldfinches scattering every time you open the door! But hunger wins. Lovely pictures. What I don’t understand is why my House Finches are attracted to my sedum plants, which are just flowering. I’ve watched them out my kitchen window foraging around but I’m not sure what they’re eating, maybe it’s more of a bug thing.

  2. You are so clever and patient to get these pictures of the goldfinch on the cup plant. I don’t often see goldfinches in my garden; perhaps because I’m not growing their favorite foods.
    If you let the cup plant go to seed and if the goldfinches don’t eat them all, are they nuisance self-seeders?

  3. When the goldfinches arrive here in winter, one of their favorite treats seems to be seed from the crepe myrtle trees. Most people leave the dried pods on the trees until the birds have left, and it’s great fun to watch them hanging from the branches.

      • They start arriving in September, and the bulk of them come around October. By December or even mid-November they’re gone, depending on the weather and when a good north wind shows up. Some will stay year round, especially if feeders are up, but the advice being given more and more often is to get the feeders down once the absence of flocks is noticeable, so they don’t tempt birds to stay. Of course in spring we get them back. Their favored flowers will start blooming around April.

  4. I took a picture of a goldfinch eating the blooms on the Russian Sage in my garden. I took the picture through the dirty diningroom windows. It wouldn’t have allowed me to step outside to get the picture. I was amazed. They often eat the petals off of Cone flowers too.

  5. Lovely photos of the Goldfinch… In Queensland there are beautiful Gouldian Finches and they are endangered, and so the ones I saw where in a large aviary, eating lots of seeds. They are slightly smaller than your Finches and glorious in colour.
    Now you’ve got me thinking about all the vegan birds in Australia…plenty!

  6. A favorite at my place in SW Illinois are purple coneflowers, but I also see them at Sunflowers and Cupplants. I don’t have them often at my feeders. I stopped buying and putting out thistle seed as they, like most of my feeder birds, preferred black oil sunflower seeds.

  7. Nice shots! Do yours stay through winter? I’m still seeing a few Lesser goldfinches at the early summer sunflowers. In the next few months, other things will produce seeds that they love. Isn’t it so fun to have these darling birds in the garden?

  8. Here they like the Gaillardia but also our native Salvia clevelandii which have plenty of seeds and nice strong stems to perch on and feed.

    Enjoyed your photos of such a lovely bird. I think here we have the Lesser Goldfinch, not quite as brilliantly yellow but still happy to eat seeds.

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