A Surprise Zinnia Goldfinch Discovery
This year, in addition to the returning perennials and new annual plants, my wife had a pack of mixed zinnias. I think we had it left over from last year. She decided it couldn’t hurt to put them out in our baskets. It has turned out to be a pleasant zinnia goldfinch surprise! Let me tell you about it.
I’ll Just Plant a Few Seeds in Each Basket
The first surprise was how quickly they sprouted and grew. The second surprise was how huge they got very quickly. Before we knew it both of the baskets they had been planted in were small jungles! They reached at least two feet tall in a very short amount of time. The flowers were of many different colors and beautiful. Before too long we started doing regular pruning/deadheading just to keep them under control.
Not So Fast With That Pruning!
I think it might have been just a couple of days we let them grow. One day I looked out there and swear I saw some stalks moving. I looked closer and saw a goldfinch had landed on one of them and was trying to keep his balance. I thought he was just being curious and thought no more of it.
Then it started happening more and more frequently. I’d look out and see both male and female goldfinches ferreting around in the zinnia bushes. I figured they were just looking for bugs and again dismissed it.
The Conk on the Head
Finally, I started seeing goldfinches landing on the flower heads, pulling off the petals and pulling at the seeds on them. It started happening more and more. Brilliant me, I made the connection at last-LOL! Ever since then, we’ve been enjoying these antics on a regular basis.
My Advice For Your Own Zinnia Goldfinch Event
- If you can, go to your nearest garden store and pick up a small pack of zinnia seeds. That way you’ll have them ready in the spring when it’s time to plant them.
- Don’t sweat exactly when you plant them because they can be planted late and still bring you tons of enjoyment before fall sets in. We live in Tennessee but didn’t plant our seeds until June.
- If you want to prune for shape do it early.
- Once they reach two feet or more try to reduce your pruning and allow them to go to seed. This is the main reason the goldfinches are attracted to them.
- If you have to prune them remember they make beautiful indoor arrangements.
Have You Had a Zinnia Goldfinch Event This Year?
If you have, please leave a comment and share it with us. Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article please share it using the buttons below.
Some other people who have had a similar experience with goldfinches and zinnias.
Judy Kolo-Rose says
We have Lesser Goldfinches in our garden (flock of about 50+) and surprising to us the love to eat the LEAVES of Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), and Sunflowers!
What is so striking to me is that the leaf texture is quite rough…but they love it!
I have never witnessed American Goldfinches doing this.
Thank you for stopping by and sharing with us!
I had heard about many seed head flowers that goldfinches would go after. Especially sunflower. I had not had anybody tell me about their zinnias being attacked by them though-LOL! It does not surprise me that you haven’t seen American goldfinches doing this because they seem to prefer their sunflower seeds hulled-HA!
Where are you located? I see the Lesser goldfinch range seems to extend west mostly.
You’re very blessed to have 50+ of these. Have you been feeding long?
Goldfinch gathering zinnia disk florets in august 2018
Do you have a picture of this you could email me?
I just had 2 if the brightest yellow finches land on my single zinnia. They were so cute and I didnt want to move to snap a photo but wish I had. Been here 6 years and always have coffee outside to watch the birds… never saw that before. I will plant more zinnias next year for sure.
Donna from Connecticut shoreline.
So glad you decided to share about your zinnia goldfinch experience! I know what you mean about the photos. I had a hummingbird come and chirp at me not six inches in front of my face that would have made a GREAT shot. But at least I’ll never forget it.
I think you made a good choice not to disturb them and just watch. More people need to just be with their birds and not try to always maximize the experience. Just let nature unfold.
What else do you have in your yard on the CT shoreline?
vern brigner says
I have a flower garden consisting of sunflowers, cosmos and zinnia’s. The goldfinch are having a gourmet on the seeds of sunflowers and zinnia”s.. Woodpeckers and butterflies also. Really enjoying it!!
Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your neck of the woods! Where might that be anyway?
I still get a kick out of watching goldfinches pull the flower petals off so they can get to the good stuff-HA!
I’m assuming the woodpeckers are on the sunflowers?
Sandy C. Perkins says
I live in Shreveport, Louisiana. It’s the middle of February and we’re expecting over three inches of snow within the next twenty-four hours. The water in my birdbath is frozen at this moment, but the birds are still all around.
I love Zennias! I’ve been planting them in my front yard flower beds for a few years, making bigger beds each year. I usually clean them up at the end of blooming in November. I didn’t this time and I’m really glad. The chicadees are feasting on the dead heads! I wasn’t sure at first if that’s what they were after , until I saw one land on one and pull at the seeds.
That’s what brought me to your site. I Google everything and wanted to know for sure if that’s what they’re doing.
Just wanted to thank you for your post. From now on I will take what seeds I need and leave the rest for the birds winter meals.
So glad you found my site and that I could help! The only birds that picked through the zinnias were the goldfinches and an occasional chickadee or wren.
It’s amazing how helpful doing nothing can be for wildlife! We humans fuss and fret about trying to have the perfect lawn or sanctuary. The birds just want something good to eat somewhere they feel safe eating it.
Sounds like you’ve provided both and should be praised for caring enough to provide for them!
Elaine R Hamill says
Goldfinches absolutely tear up my zinnias to get at the seeds even though I have a bird feeder full of sunflower chips nearby! So I plant extra zinnias and cut spent blooms to encourage new flowers. Picky goldfinches keep me on my toes here in central North Carolina for sure. : )
So glad to hear your goldfinches are gaga over your zinnias! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them choosing them over chips-WOW!
Your enthusiasm is contagious and I know your goldies really appreciate it.
Enjoy your summer with them! Do they get a bit scarce in late August there?
We just spotted a goldfinch on our zinnias for the first time, completely going at the petals and the core. Absolutely lovely!
Isn’t it hilarious to watch? You’d think they were carnivorous the way they tear them up-LOL!
Thanks for checking in and sharing. Do you have many zinnia plants?
Finally saw our finches ripping off the zinnea petals! So fun !
Yes, the first time I saw it I thought I was seeing things or that it was just curious. Then others joined the fun. I knew I’d be entertained for many years to come. Glad you’ve taken the time to notice their antics and not being mad at the zinnia attack-LOL!
I have red and purple zinnias and saw a goldfinch attacking the biggest and redest zinnia, plus the sunflower that’s growing just next to the zinnias.
I live in Maryland.
Isn’t it a hoot watching them?! I remember the first time I saw one doing it I thought it was just making sure it wasn’t passing up a food source. He knew what he was doing and my wife and I both cracked up when we saw the pile of petals around the planter-LOL!
So yours prefer the red zinnias? We don’t have as many of those this year (the zinnia seed “mix” was not as mixed as it has been years hence) and ours our mainly white and yellow. Not as much activity as previous years.
Hi Jeff, I live in SC on Buffalo Creek. Because it butts up to the Sumter National Forest we have a lot of deer and wildlife. To keep the deer from eating all of my flowers I have LOTS of pots on my deck so I can enjoy them. I have a pair of Goldfinches that have been going crazy the last month coming to my pots of Zinnia, Blackeyed Susans and Purple Cone Flowers. They come several times a day. This is my second year of them coming, but it just happened that last year I had put a garden flag out with Goldfinches on it so I guess they saw that as a “welcoming” sign. If you have an e-mail I can send you pictures of them and a crude birdbath that I made that has many different birds who stop by to take “baths” every day.
It sounds like you’ve got a magical setting with all the goldies and other birds enjoying your space! Putting out the welcome flag was just the touch you needed-LOL!
I’d love to see your pics. As long as they’re not too big to get past your email provider you can just send them to email@example.com. If they are large, I can send you a Google Drive link for you to upload them.
Thanks again for your wonderful addition to our site!
Hi Jeff ! I live in metro west Mass. I planted about six pots of different zinnia flowers this year by seed. I have noticed the last couple days that the goldfinches go on the flowers and pick at them and pull out the petals so funny to w atch. This is the first year I planted zinnias and next year I’m planning on doing the same but I’m going to try to find organic seeds hopefully I can find organic zinnia seeds
You’re in heaven! I can tell. Good on you for taking the time to plant the zinnias and I’m happy you’re seeing such fun returns! Those sweet little birds look like they’re on a mission when they set their minds to zinnias-LOL!
Thanks for helping to brighten all of our days!!!
I’ve not seen organic seeds to be honest but understand your interest to support the organic movement in any way possible. Let me know how you make out with those, will you?
I did a Google search after watching a goldfinch sitting on one of my zinnias plucking the bright pink petals off the flower head this morning! What a treat to see! I got my binoculars for a better view. I only very rarely see goldfinches near my birdbath on my back porch here in Central Alabama. Thank you for you post!!
Thanks for stopping by and joining into the discussion from central Alabama! Welcome!
I know it’s such a treat to watch them plucking at your zinnias! Talk about being on a mission! They look like the only thing they’ve been put on this planet to do is tear up zinnias-LOL!
So glad you’ve been able to watch them up close too. Do you have different colored zinnias and have you noticed they prefer one over the other?
All of these shared Goldfinch sightings make me feel like a member of a club. I’ve only planted zinnias for the past two years and this summer the goldfinches have gathered to feed on them, just like you described I one day noticed them from the window.. Previously I only saw the finches on thistles. Was so happy to see them light on the beautiful (and yes, easy to grow) flowers. The zinnias are also attracting bees and monarch butterflies. I’ve failed to get photos so far but will keep trying.. How precious a shot it would be.. Thank you for sharing so much information.
Thank you for stopping by and joining the Zinnea/Goldfinch club-LOL!
As you’ve discovered, the Goldfinches may have been the most comical but certainly only the tip of the entertainment iceberg. The butterflies and bees have been a pleasure to watch as well.
As soon as you can get some photos, give me another message here and I’ll find a way to get them from you, ok?
Enjoy all the joy you’ve brought to your back yard!
If I ever manage to get a photo of Zin & GF together I’ll be sure to let you know. They’re so quick to flit away but I noticed that they do indeed appear to eat the Z. petals as someone else co.mented. That’s fine. They’re worth it.
That would be great, Dianne! Thank you so much!
Anne Obrien says
I’m in New Hampshire and have been enjoying, just the last few days gold finches, what appeared to be a couple on my zinnias. I looked up information, and landed on your site, because I wasn’t sure what they were doing as I saw the flower shake and petals fall. So fun to watch! I also thought it might be bugs on the flower. Just love my zinnias, they’re happy flowers and so glad the butterflies and birds like them too!
So glad you’ve been able to watch the little goldies having fun up in New Hampshire! And yes, zinnias are the happiest little flowers. It’s only right that they should share that with your goldfinches.
Thank you for stopping by and brightening our day! Where in New Hampshire are you?
Was doing alittle search on zinnia flowers and yellow finch birds and found your articles. Well that’s what we call them in our part of North Alabama. I’ve always planted Zinnias but this is the first year that the little yellow finch has found them and boy it’s been a party ever since! I let my zinna’ s get very tall and also plant mammoth sunflowers among them out by my patio. I can sit and watch the little birds feed off and on all day on the flowers and now that the sunflowers head has matured they are also loving the seeds of those also.
It is one of the funniest things to witness! They really seem like they’re having a great time, don’t they?
I think one of the things that really attracts them is they love THEIR OWN feeding sources, whenever possible. They don’t mind the bees or butterflies so it’s all good!
I have had goldfinches pluck my zinnias and gerbera daisies bald. I love to watch them do it!! They’re very entertaining! Reading the comments here I think I should plant sunflowers next year. I never have bc I dont want to attract any more squirrels than we already have! Any variety better than others for the finches? I’m in MN, southern suburb of Minneapolis.
The first year we had zinnias we didn’t know what to expect. I had not heard of goldfinches attacking them comically like they do-LOL! It’s always great to meet another human who enjoys this playful bird!
I hate to say it but if you have sunflowers and squirrels you’re going to have squirrels in and on your sunflowers and you WILL attract them from miles around! It’s one of their favorite foods which is why people without baffles or squirrel-proof feeders (Brome) have so much trouble with them. You’re also very likely to attract many species of what I call nuisance birds (birds like grackles, for instance, that overtake feeders and feeding areas making it impossible for the birds you truly want to feed to feed) that will also move in in droves.
I also know sunflowers are beautiful and substantial. But if I were you, I would shop to find a clinging type (Beck’s, Songbird Essentials that you can hang from a pole system that has a baffle on it. If you can give goldfinches their own feeder system, all the better. I’ve seen time and time again that goldfinches will devour the same seed that I offer on a shared pole system if it allows them to have their own system.
Let me know what you decide and I’m sorry but maybe someone else can step up and talk about what variety of sunflower seed if it makes any difference.
Nina Garvey says
Hi Jeff !
I am responding to the message I sent you back on August 17, 2021.
I told you that I was going to try to find organic Zinnia seeds. I found packets of organic “wild flower”
mixes at Whole Foods. To my delight there are a lot of zinnia flowers within the mix! They are ready to
bloom at the moment. I do have a question though. My zinnia’s from last year grew really tall and got brown and crispy on the bottoms of the stems. I never cut off the dead flowers because I thought the birds would eat the seeds from the dead heads. (I don’t think they did) I’m not sure how to manage the flowers. Should I cut off the dead ones? At what point do the goldfinches like to eat the seeds?
Thanks Jeff ! Nina
Nice to see you back again! Hope all is well!
Zinnias are annuals so you just need to plant some more to get them going again. I’m not sure if it’s too late but I don’t think so.
Generally, once the flowers start blooming the goldfinches start getting interested in them. I’m glad the mix you got from Whole Foods had some in it. I don’t think they care about them when they start browning out and dying.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.
I’m glad everyone else thinks the Zinnia thieves are so cute. I think the goldfinches are a nuisance! Spent all this money to decorate our yard for summer and now I have to fight off the darn birds. How do I stop the invasion!!!!!
I’m sorry you feel the way you do about the goldfinches. I can’t comment either on “stopping the invasion” as we put our Zinnias out for their beauty but enjoy the antics too. They’re really not destroying anything here. Even if you put up their favorite sunflower chips in a clinging feeder it doesn’t guarantee they won’t keep sampling your Zinnias.
I hope you can make peace with them. And I mean this sincerely.
Stop the invasion? If your a nature lover, you would delight in it.
I don’t understand your feeling that way. Delight in nature, delight in the beautiful birds!
Share your bounty.
Thank you, Nina! You took the words out of my mouth!
Tonia Patterson says
I was able to catch one on my zinnias just a few days ago! So interesting!
Tonia Patterson says
??Catch one on video…not by hand! Lol!
Thanks for making that distinction-LOL! My wife and I love watching them move from flower to flower as if there’s a grand scheme. Most of the time, they’re just hanging out on a flower trying to figure out what to do.
Enjoy their pranks!
Just saw finches on our zinnias for the first time. Maybe because we had not planted them in the window box before. They seem to enjoy the red ones. We’re in eastern Massachusetts near the shore. Danvers to be precise. It’s been fun to see a different behavior from birds. Glad I found your site. Thanks , Judy and Joe
Thanks, Judy and Joe! It’s one of the things that keeps me feeding birds and squirrels. Being able to watch them in all their different pursuits never gets old. I’d love to see a pic of your goldfinches.