In North America, there are 17 species of finches out there. In arid regions of the United States, Canada, and Mexico, you may find a wide variety of finches happily perching on trees and shrubs in search of food. Have you ever wondered, “what do finches eat?”
Finches in the wild feed on a wide variety of grains and seeds, especially black oil sunflower seeds during the warm summer months. In the winter when everything is covered with snow, these birds change their diet into fruits, berries, greens, and vegetables. During the breeding season, they feast on various small insects and feed their chicks some regurgitated ones.
This article is a supplement to our recent post on attracting finches to your yard. That page will let you know how to befriend them with the right food, feeders, water, and nesting materials. When finished here, please read that post to know more in-depth information about finches.
Common Diet of Finches
Like other birds, finches need to consume nutritious food like seeds and grains. Through nutritious food, these birds get iron, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, carbohydrate, and almost all types of vitamins needed to stay healthy.
Finches mainly eat a variety of seeds, like black oil sunflower seeds, sunflower hearts, nyjer (thistle) seeds, canary seeds, finch blend, including sunflower chips and nyjer (thistle), and a stick of wood containing seeds stuck with honey.
If you’re willing to feed finches a variety of seeds, we recommend you purchase Kaytee Finch Bird Seed Blend from Amazon. It includes waste free, 100% consumable seeds. Once your finches finished eating all seeds, you won’t find anything fallen under your finch feeder.
Now, the biggest question is how much seed you should offer your finches every day. You should provide 1 level teaspoon per bird per day in a shallow dish. If there are more birds out there, you should provide them with the right amount of seeds in a large feeding dish.
Apart from seeds, grains are one of the most favorite treats for finches. The grains finches usually eat include quinoa, buckwheat, rice, cracked corn, ground corn, oats, barley, white millet, red millet (millet branch or spray), and many more.
If you want to feed them with a variety of grains, we suggest buying Kaytee Wild Finch Blend from Amazon. This finch blend comes with a combination of sunflower chips and a few types of small grains. It will attract finches like a magnet.
We prefer a mix of grass seeds (50%), millets (25%), and flax seeds (25%). This mixture contains a high amount of vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, fiber, calcium, and anti-oxidants. It will also help finches fight various avian diseases and provide your finches a clear gut.
Finches can eat a wide variety of fruits, but they’re less concerned about fruits. In the wild, these birds eat apples, grapes, oranges, cherries, peaches, nectarines, bananas, pears, watermelons, pumpkins, pineapples, mangoes, beetroots, papayas, and more.
Instead of organic fruits, finches like dried fruits, like raisins, sultanas, and currants. Before you offer them fruits, make sure to cut them into pieces according to the sizes of your finches. We cut most fruits into 0.5-inch pieces.
Just like fruits, berries are one of the most favorites for wild finches. They feed on a wide variety of berries, including strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, serviceberries, hackberries, cranberries, and many more.
If you have some pet finches, you can provide them with different types of berries. Make sure to cut the berries into small pieces so that your finches can comfortably eat the pieces. Clean the berries with fresh water before chopping them.
You’ll be wondering how finches eat greens. The leafy greens finches consume include dandelion, lettuce, chickweed, spinach, water spinach, amaranth, nasturtium, parsley, mustard cress, fennel bulb (feathery green parts), and celery (leafy ends).
These greens contain necessary nutrients, like fiber, iron, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, magnesium, zinc, carbohydrate, and almost all types of vitamins. If you want to feed your finches some greens, remember to provide them with a small quantity of greens.
Finches enjoy a wide variety of vegetables suitable for their stomachs. The list includes tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, green courgette, cabbage, bell peppers (all colors), green beans, winter squash, yellow corn cobs, peas, and sweet potato.
These vegetables contain many nutrients, including iron, fiber, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, carbohydrate, and almost all types of vitamins. Make sure to chop your fresh and well cleaned vegetables before putting them into feeders.
Not all finches usually eat insects. You can just spot some insect-eating finches, such as waxbill finches, lady gouldian finches, and owl finches foraging for insects in the wild. However, other finch species need to eat insects during breeding season and feeding their chicks.
The insects finches can eat are mealworms, crickets, ants, wasps, beetles, termites, wax worms, silkworms, white worms, etc. You can offer your finches Kaytee Dried Mealworms from Amazon. If possible, feed your birds with live ones.
8. Human-Made Food
As a general rule of thumb, nutritious food that you can eat can also be fed to your birds. When it comes to feeding finches, you can offer them a little amount of cheese, hard-boiled eggs, smashed fish, and cooked meat.
Finches love to eat suet, especially in winter when their regular food sources are not abundant. Many backyard birders also offer them bread crumbs. If you’re willing to keep your finches healthy, add some cooked eggs to their diet once a week.
If you want to give your finches more nutrition, make them accustomed to eating pellets. Typically, pellets can be made in many ways. Whatever pellets you feed your finches, you can fulfill the nutritional needs of these beautiful birds.
Gradually reduce the seeds in their feeding dish until 8 weeks. Instead, increase the number of pellets in the food bowl with time. Don’t mix seeds with pellets. Otherwise, your finches pick the seeds out and leave the pellets untouched.
Finches love to drink fresh water, particularly during warm summer months. So, you should provide them with water all the times. For that, install a ground level birdbath in your garden. You can use both tap water and bottled water.
Finches consume water as much as 40% of their body weight when the temperatures are 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius). When the temperature falls to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), they drink water as much as 20% of their body weight.
Finches Diet By Types
Most finch species are granivorous, meaning that they eat both plants and animals. There are 17 finch species in North America. Among them, American goldfinches, lesser goldfinches, Lawrence’s goldfinches, house finches, purple finches, and Cassin’s finches are popular.
Let’s see the feeding differences between these finch species:
|Name of Finches||Scientific Name||Common Diet|
|American Goldfinch||Spinus Tristis||Nyjer (thistle seeds), black oil sunflower seeds, fruits, berries, greens, and vegetables.|
|Lesser Goldfinch||Spinus Psaltria||Wild sunflower seeds, weed seeds, thistle seeds, insects, flowers, tree buds, and some fruits and berries.|
|Lawrence’s Goldfinch||Spinus Lawrencei||seeds, native weeds, plants, chamise, peppergrass, fiddleneck, insects, tree buds, and tree galls.|
|House Finch||Haemorhous Mexicanus||Seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, berries, greens, insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and mealworms.|
|Purple Finch||Haemorhous Purpureus||Nyjer, maple, tulip, and elm seeds, insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and mealworms.|
|Cassin’s Finch||Haemorhous Cassinii||Seeds, fruits, berries, buds, insects, greens (only leafy parts), and vegetables.|
What do American goldfinches eat? American goldfinches eat nyjer (thistle) seeds, black oil sunflower seeds, and a wide variety of fruits, berries, greens, and vegetables. They can also be fed a few human-made treats, pellets, and freshwater.
What do lesser goldfinches eat? Lesser goldfinches mostly eat seeds, including wild sunflower seeds, weed seeds, and thistle seeds. They also feed on insects, flowers, tree buds, and some fruits and berries. They need a lot of water during warm summer months.
What do Lawrence’s goldfinches eat? Lawrence’s goldfinches mostly eat seeds, just like lesser goldfinches. They also feed on native weeds and plants, including chamise, peppergrass, fiddleneck, and more. Insects, tree buds and tree galls are in their favorite food lists.
What do house finches eat? House finches like to eat seeds, grains, fruits, vegetables, berries, and greens. They forage for insects, including caterpillars, beetles, and mealworms. In seeds, house finches prefer thistle and black oil sunflower seeds.
What do purple finches eat? Purple finches mainly feed on nyjer, maple, tulip, and elm seeds. They sometimes consume various insects, including grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, and mealworms. In the wild, they love to eat honeysuckles, apricot, and crabapples.
What do Cassin’s finches eat? Cassin’s finches primarily feed on seeds, fruits, berries, buds, and insects. They eat a wide variety of insects in summer, while they transform their diet into fruits, berries, greens (only leafy parts), and vegetables.
What Finches Eat In the Winter?
Finches, in the winter, still remain granivorous. They eat both seeds and insects. In seeds, these birds feed on nyjer, black oil sunflower, and hulled sunflower. Most finch species visit many seed-bearing flowers during this time.
Although insects are not abundant in the winter, finches eat both live and dried mealworms offered by many backyard birders. These birds also feast on fruits and berries in the wild or at feeders in someone’s backyard. They can even be seen on suet feeders.
What Finches Eat at Feeders?
If you’re willing to feed a wide variety of finches in your garden, you’ll need to use finch-friendly feeders. But, which feeders are finch-friendly? We’ve researched that tube, platform/tray, hopper, and window feeders are ideal for feeding finches.
Let’s check out some of the finch-friendly feeders below:
#Tube feeders: Tube feeders are ideal for adding nyjer and sunflower seeds. The Droll Yankees Hanging Tube Feeder on Amazon could be what you’re looking for your finches. Make sure to replace the seeds after every 3 to 4 weeks. Finches won’t eat stale seeds.
#Platform/Tray Feeder: Another suitable feeder for finches is platform feeders, also known as tray feeders. You can provide seeds, grains, fruits, berries, greens, in other words, almost anything in this feeder. The Nature’s Way Platform Feeder on Amazon is highly recommended.
#Hopper feeder: If you cannot manage tube or tray feeders, a hopper feeder could be an excellent alternative. The Woodlink Absolute II Bird Feeder on Amazon is a hopper feeder, which includes a wide variety of seeds and grains, such as nyjer, sunflower, millet, cracked corn, and more.
#Window Feeder: A window feeder can attract plenty of finches at your window. The Nature Hangout Window Feeder on Amazon allows a wide variety of finches, especially house finches, to eat seeds, grains, sliced fruits, chopped veggies, and dried insects.
What Do Baby Finches Eat?
A finch usually eats what its mother feeds it. When the finch is a nestling, the father feeds the mother on the nest because the mother cannot go leaving her chicks alone. The mother then regurgitates the food to the chick.
Once the nestling becomes a fledgling, both the father and the mother feed it. During this period, the mother finds a new mate for another brood, while the father feeds the young until they leave the nest to search for food
What to Feed Baby Finches? (And What Not To)
If you find a baby finch fallen on the ground, make sure that the chick is abandoned. Now, the question is what to feed the baby finch. Experts suggest feeding baby finches a variety of soft foods, including moist dog food, raw liver, hard-boiled eggs, cat kibble, etc.
However, you shouldn’t feed the chick water, bread, whole birdseed, worms, milk, and kitchen scraps. If you feed the chick these foods, they may lead the chick to death. Once the chick gets matured, they can eat foods that adult finches can eat.
What Finches Shouldn’t Eat?
A wide variety of foods are out there that finches shouldn’t eat. The foods include:
- Citrus fruits
- Fruit stones
- Sweet pea
To learn more about it, we suggest you read our article on what birds cannot eat? [Read here].
Feeding and Foraging Behavior of Finches
Since finches travel in small flocks, they visit any feeder as a group. These birds are pretty noisy and quite active at feeders. They’re consistently flying one feeder to another. Most importantly, they’re usually ground foragers, but you can see them at almost all feeders.
Finches chew the seeds to open the seed husks. Then, they use their tongues to eat the kernels; actually they swallow the kernels. That’s why you may spot empty seed shells on your platform feeder. To feed the finches again, clean the empty shells from your feeder.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. How do I convert my finches to a pelleted diet?
At first, you finches don’t recognize pellets as food. That’s why you should give your finches pellets in a separate bowl in the morning when they’re hungriest. In the beginning, finches may not want to eat pellets. So, constantly reduce the number of seeds. Don’t mix the pellets with seeds. Always try to give them crushed pellets. If you need help, you can consult your veterinarian.
2. Do my finches need gravel or grit?
Birders used to believe that gravel or grit was essential to digest the foods. This is partially true. The birds that eat seeds with shells need gravel or grit to digest. However, the birds like finches eat seeds by removing the shells. That’s why they don’t need gravel or grit in their diet.
3. Do my finches need extra vitamins and minerals?
If your finches are laying eggs, they need extra vitamins and minerals. Veterinarians suggest feeding them with calcium supplements. The best practice is feeding them with moist food. However, the finches that eat pellets don’t require additional supplements.
4. How much food should finches eat every day?
Finches should eat approximately 1.5 to 2 teaspoons of seeds every day. Apart from seeds, these birds require fruits, berries, greens, vegetables, and insects, making sure that they eat these items 20% to 25% of their entire diet per day.
Now that you know what finches eat, you can offer them their favorite treats. Once they forage for foods in your garden, you may find yourself covered with these beautiful birds. They will also help you control insect populations by consuming harmful insects.
However, we’ve tried our best to cover all the feeding areas of finches. If you think that we missed anything important, you can let us know below in the comment section. You can also tell us about your experience in feeding these lovely birds.