Finches are the true vegetarians of the bird world. While many different bird species enjoy a good seed, most feed on insects when they are available in the summer. And most birds usually feed their young insects because of the high protein content. This is not so when it comes to the finches. They prefer seeds year round and I can see them reacting as you or I would if we caught a bug in our mouths. In fact, if a Brown-headed Cowbird lays its egg in a goldfinch nest the young cowbird usually does not live past about three days. They cannot survive on the totally vegetarian diet.
Finches use what I call the"cling and peck" method to feed. These small birds can cling to the head of a flower and peck at the seeds. These flowers do not have to be sturdy like a sunflower and can be as fragile as a blanket flower. In fact, most finches enjoy seeds from any of the composite family of flowers. This family includes daisies, asters, fleabane, feverfew, and yarrow to name a few.
The finch bird feeders supply the birds with thistle or nyjer seed and are designed to allow the finches to use the "cling and peck" method of feeding. Many of the well-designed feeders do not have perches. This keeps bigger birds from utilizing the feeders.
Now that you know about the seeds finches enjoy, I would like to offer you the opportunity to do more bird watching. Many of us spend needless time deadheading the flowers in our gardens. If you do this you will not attract finches to the seedheads. So, skip the yard work and go birdwatching! Take a stance, if you weed the thistle out of your yard, a finch may have to bypass your yard.
What? You think your neighbors might object to your yard? Well, tell them you are doing your part to protect the wild birds. After all who doesn't like goldfinches? They eat the seed heads of thistles and dandelion, so you have to be green and feed the birds. No, you can't deadhead the flowers in your garden, you must let them go to seed- to feed the finches. Trim your shrubs? What if there is a finch nest in that shrub? Mow your lawn? What if that exposes the fledglings to the neighbor's cat? They need places to hide! I'm sure you see how this is supposed to work. And it does work for us.
Of course, our closest neighbor is a 1/4 mile away.....