Goldfinch Gangs Terrorize Garden! Mutilated Flowers Cry for Help!

June 9, 2009 | By | Comments (33)

Goldfinch Question from John: I live in  Wisconsin close to the Illinois border. Each year I purchase Gerbera Daisy plants. After about a week on the patio, the yellow finches pluck out the petals. They pull  them out one at a time. They do not eat them or the center of the flower. They just pluck them out and drop them. They strip all the petals from all colors and just the gerbera daisies.They do not touch the centers of the flowers. At first we thought they were taking the petals for nesting purposes, but they just pluck them and drop them. Once all the petals are gone they move on to the next flower. Any ideas?

 

The Grump replies: It is a sad commentary on the fallen state of the world when we can no longer feel safe around goldfinches. Most people trust these little birds as they would trust their own children. Yet see how that trust is repaid!

I have never witnessed such outlandish behavior myself. I can think of only 3 explanations:

1. They’re looking for seeds in the center. When they don’t find any, they move on to the next flower.

2. Maybe they are Illinois goldfinches making a border raid on you Wisconsin cheeseheads!

3. You’re dealing with a group of delinquent birds. The Goldfinch Gang has come to town.

Gerbera An innocent Gerbera awaits its fate. It’s a plucking shame.

Bird Gangs?

Don’t be shocked. Ever since Alfred Hitchcock’s classic horror film, “The Birds,” debuted in 1963, we’ve known our avian friends had a dark sinister side. They tweet sweetly on the feeder, all the while selecting which one of us will get our eyes pecked out. Maybe it will be you!

Grumpians, can any of you offer John an explanation for why these finches are pillaging his Gerberas?

While John waits, he can take solace in the fact that behavior on his feeder could be even worse.

Bear-eating-birdseed

Anyone know a good source for a bear baffle? This is what you get for putting suet in your feeder!
Growing Gerberas — A Grumpy Quickie

Light: Full to part sun

Soil: Moist, well-drained (soggy soil es muy malo). I think that’s Spanish for “very bad.”

Water: Water thoroughly, then let soil go slightly dry before watering again

Fertilizer: Feed monthly with liquid bloom-booster fertilizer

Grooming: Remove spent flowers to keep new ones coming

Nice to know: Plants often do better in containers than in the ground

Watch out for: Goldfinch gangs

COMMENTS

  1. Susan

    JennyBell, you write like a lovely person with a healthy perspective. I’ve planted for years to attract goldfinches, as well as other birds, bees and insects. If they plunder expensive Gerbers and other blooms plastic bird netting is cheap, reusable and almost invisible when caging plants correctly. I watched a bumblebee plunder phlox blossoms this summer, distressing at first but funny after a few minutes. Deadheading allowed the phlox to re-bloom in about three weeks.

    November 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm
  2. Steve Bender

    Lucy,

    I’ve never heard of goldfinches doing this. Is it just males or both males and females?

    August 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm
  3. Lucy Otto

    What about finches terrorizing window screens? I have been so pleased to see finches show up in my newly installed perennial garden, BUT one-by-one my window screens are being torn to shreds. The pretty little birds perch on the window sill and look for minute holes in the screens. Then they pulverize them. Do you know anything about this ? Can anything be done?

    July 30, 2012 at 2:49 pm
  4. Lin

    I am having the same problem in Georgia. At first I thought it was a kid playing a prank, but I saw the culprits leaving the scene of their flower vandalism. It’s hard to be angry at these birds, they are so beautiful.

    July 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm
  5. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Joan,
    I’m sure goldfinches have a logical reason for doing the things they do. I just don’t know it. Lucky they pass through the South in spring heading up to where you live before our yellow flowers start blooming here!

    June 18, 2012 at 10:40 am
  6. Joan M

    Just this morning I saw 2 female goldfinches plucking the petals from Gerbera daisies on my porch in Green Bay. They also perch on the brick of my house and peck off pieces of “grit.” Funny birds! I have a teacup feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds as well as finch sacks with thistle all around the house and several birdbaths. They have their coice of goodies, but still go for gerberas and brick lol.

    June 16, 2012 at 9:27 am
  7. JennyBell

    Perhaps the problem is in humanity and not in the Goldfinch, maybe if we looked closely at the Goldfinch we would see a flower on wings and decide he is more worthy than daisies.
    Daisies don’t sing cheery chords and lovely sweet song,
    They only bloom for a short time and then they are gone,
    A Goldfinch sings to us season to season, all the year long
    His beauty so vivid, his voice chirping sunny and strong
    I say: “Give credit where credit is due.”

    May 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm
  8. Grumpy Gardener (His Magnificence)

    Ursula,
    Birds don’t have a sense of smell like we do, so conventional repellents don’t work. I’d recommend using flash tape that scares off birds by reflecting light. Here’s a link: http://www.biconet.com/birds/flashTape.html

    July 25, 2011 at 4:26 pm
  9. Ursula King

    I have the same problem, goldfinches, as beautiful as they are, are destroying my garden. I have lots of yeellow flowers, also they mutilate my tall Phlox and destroy the blooms of the crape myrthle, as soon as they appear on the bush.
    I need help in finding somehting to spray to keep them away. I have expensive gold finch food in a feeder for them. some of the flowers they can have, but not all. does somebody know what I could spray for them to leave things alone?

    July 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm
  10. Grumpy Gardener (His Benevolence)

    Finches love flowers that produce dried seedheads. I wouldn’t recommend gerberas, because frankly it’s hard to keep them alive long enough to produce seeds. Instead, plant zinnias, sunflowers, black-eyed Susans, purple coneflowers, coreopsis, cockscomb, bachelor’s buttons, asters, and cosmos. Finches also love crepe myrtle seed in winter.

    August 17, 2010 at 4:01 pm
  11. john

    i’m in new jersey and i’m looking for plants that attract gold finches. am i correct to assume zinnias and gerbera daiseys?

    August 16, 2010 at 12:59 pm
  12. flower Philippine

    Great! i like gerbera so much coz it looks so innocent and if i had this on my garden i feel happy.
    ford

    September 7, 2009 at 10:24 pm
  13. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    Maybe we better ask Alfred Hitchcock.

    August 18, 2009 at 7:44 am
  14. Cheryl

    I’m seeing the same behaviour in Tidewater Virginia! Goldfinches are plucking out the petals on the black eye susans and zinnias. They seem to mostly go for the yellow flowers. I thought they wanted to be the only gold in town!
    Honestly though, I’ve never seen this before. Do you think they are trying to get the flowers to set seed by stripping the petals? Are birds that smart?

    August 17, 2009 at 9:36 am
  15. barb

    TaDa, i have the answer, i have a plastic bumble bee with whirly wings on a stick and i put him right in the middle of my flower pot. bingo, flowers are blooming again and no pesky birds. :)

    July 26, 2009 at 8:15 pm
  16. Cara

    My goodness! I not only have a gang of goldfinch, they seem to have recruited English Sparrows to help in their dirtywork. Three weeks ago, I had a full, vibrant patchwork of perennial daisies in my garden. One morning I just happened to look out my front window and there they were climbing the stems of the plants and literally plucking the flowers off the top! I watched as they flew away with their bounty in beak only to be amazed when they dropped the flower and returned to pluck again!! I am so glad that I am not alone in noticing this odd odd behavior! My plants are now stripped bare and I just keep shaking my head when I think about how it happened.

    July 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm
  17. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    Hmmm….our cat loves spinach too. Maybe if you got cats and goldfinches together to eat spinach, the problem would resolve itself.

    July 12, 2009 at 9:24 am
  18. LemonBars

    Nope, garlic water made no impression.
    Tinsel didn’t bother them.
    Maybe sticky vegetable oil? The plants seemed to have survived and are blooming as well as they can following a very overcast June, so maybe the question is irrelevant now.
    It makes me rethink our plans to plant spinach, however. Canaries (close relatives of finches) think there isn’t anything tastier than spinach.

    July 11, 2009 at 6:54 pm
  19. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    From all the destruction going on in Wisconsin and Minnesota, I would guess that goldfinches aren’t Lutheran.

    July 6, 2009 at 1:28 pm
  20. xj1844

    Thanks for asking this question John, now I know what’s going on with my gerbers I have potted on the front porch. I live in Green Bay, WI. This is the first year this is happening and I thought it was the rabbits! Damn Finches!

    July 6, 2009 at 8:46 am
  21. Grumpy Gardener aka His Excellency

    Wow, I never knew goldfinches could be so vicious! Let everyone know if the garlic spray works.

    June 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm
  22. LemonBars

    Lesser goldfinches here in southern California are eating our young sunflowers’ leaves from the stem out, leaving a lacework of veins and fragments that look like somebody took tiny pinking shears to them. The flowers haven’t developed yet, and I won’t mind the finches eating the seeds later, but I’m worried the birds will kill the plants before the flowers bloom.
    We’re going to try spraying garlic-infused water on the leaves, but that’s a wild guess.

    June 27, 2009 at 11:55 pm
  23. sasha

    We have this exact problem with zinnias on our patio. Our neighbor has bird feeders that attract the finches. Then the finches come over to our zinnias and pluck out the petals one by one with their beaks, leaving nothing but stumps. I notice that they don’t tend toward the neighbor’s flowers, which are closer, so I’m thinking it has to do with they type of flower. Someone at the garden center said its possible that since finches are herbuvores, they are not getting a specific nutrient from the bird seed and are looking for other sources. He suggested getting nyger seeds, putting them in a bird feeder away from the flowers, and seeing if that solves the problem. I just found this out a couple of days ago so haven’t tried it yet, but good luck!

    June 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm
  24. Grumpy Gardener

    Spread the word to your friends, family, and all the world — goldfinches must be stopped!!!

    June 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm
  25. Renee

    I have noticed the same strange behavior of the goldfinches here in Minnesota. I always thought it was rabbits eating the petals off the flowers in my garden. This year to defeat the rabbits, I planted the gerbera daisies in my planters on my patio. I have seen the culprits, aka goldfinches, in action, pulling the petals off the flowers. I do have a bird feeder near by as well as other plants such as echinacea, liatris and monarda near by which doesn’t seem to help. Although something does keep eating the tops off the liatris plants before they even get a chance to bloom.

    June 16, 2009 at 4:12 pm
  26. Jean

    John you could plant something else…and just show those pesky birds who is boss around there!

    June 12, 2009 at 11:29 am
  27. Grumpy Gardener

    One thing you might try, John, is to put a birdfeeder somewhere in your yard away from the gerberas and fill it with seed goldfinches like, such as thistle and black oil seed. Maybe they’ll go to the feeder instead of your flowers. Or put out pots of plastic gerberas! That’ll teach those stinking birds a lesson!

    June 11, 2009 at 8:09 am
  28. chathamcorabbit

    I agree with Cameron- plant something that the finches really like (Echinacea is another idea), maybe that’ll relieve the stress on the Gerberas.
    When we built our house in the middle of nowhere 3 years ago, the finches were very Hitchcockian- clinging to our window screens by the dozens and peering in (I love birds, but that was pretty freakin’ creepy). Now that we have a lot of plants that they like out in the yard, they no longer frequent our porches.

    June 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm
  29. Barbara H.

    Just this morning on my sister’s deck in NE Alabama we watched a goldfinch drop blossoms out of the chestnut tree along the woods.
    So it’s not just gerberas that are being stripped. The tree is pretty full, so it might keep the finches too busy to get to her gerberas…

    June 10, 2009 at 10:26 am
  30. Bonnie

    The Goldfinches in Ohio are ruthless as well. All four of my hanging Gerber daisy baskets have been plucked clean of all petals. I’m thinking of covering them with netting.

    June 10, 2009 at 8:47 am
  31. Pam/Digging

    OMG, a bear baffle! And I thought armadillos pillaging for earthworms were bad.

    June 9, 2009 at 11:10 pm
  32. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden)

    Tell your reader to plants lots and lots of verbena bonariensis to tower above the daisies. The verbena is for the goldfinches. It’s their favorite. Stick verbena is also loved by butterflies, especially Monarchs.
    Goldfinch feet cling to the petals of daisy-shaped flowers like rudbeckia and gerbera. So, the petals fall out (from the grip of the toes and the weight of the birds) while they are eating the seeds from the center.
    Cameron

    June 9, 2009 at 9:26 pm
  33. Helen Yoest @ Gardening With Confidence

    The love life of a bird is no different than love life our own…he loves, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not, he…

    June 9, 2009 at 9:22 pm

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