Posted by George Morrison

Goldfinch                          Word on the Week                          25th January 2020.

“Look at the birds of the air” Jesus said when he was illustrating God the Father’s provision.    I was in need of a topic for this blog and there outside my window were a flock of Goldfinches!   Their multi-coloured plumage lit up the grey January day with red, white and yellow feathers the most noticeable.

It was these feathers that made them popular as far back as the 19th century.   Then they were sought after as cage birds.   This practice of catching them was almost their undoing. They became a threatened species and were only prevented from extinction when their capture and caging was banned in 1933.   

It was observed that they had a passion for thistle seeds.   In the eighth century this gave them the name of ‘Thisteltuige’.    The name literally means thistle-tweaker. The birds can be seen in late summer, the male with his slightly longer beak, eating the teasels and the female with her short beak eating the thistle seeds.

To attract these birds to your garden I’m not suggesting you let the thistles grow although the odd one or two would be for a good cause!   They are seed feeders and the relatively expensive niger seed is their favourite meal.   You need to purchase the appropriate feeder otherwise the seed will get wasted.    What falls to the ground is usually claimed by the Chaffinch who is a ground feeder and gratefully eats the seed that falls from the Goldfinches table!

Their nests are built of grass and mud and are lined with wool to create a deeply cupped well insulated nest. They decorate the outside of the nest with lichen, presumably to camouflage their location which is at the very top of the tree.  Their eggs number 5 or 6 are white and spotted.   They time their chicks to arrive when seeds are most plentiful, usually June and a second family in the Autumn to eat the thistle seeds.

Goldfinches are easily alarmed and often take flight en masse.   It is then that their delightful flight calls can be heard.    They sound something like the tinkling of bells. This song has earned the goldfinch the lovely collective noun, ‘Charm’. 

Solomon wrote, “He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time”.   And so we have the birds but supremely the Goldfinch.   “Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”  (Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 verse 11).    We know there is more to life than this present existence – eternity has been placed in all our hearts – and God has channelled our ability to finding out about eternity through faith in Christ.  

“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—                                  1 Corinthians 2 verse 9.