Goldfinches love thistles.

One of my interests is the habitats and niches which birds occupy. I do my birding on the WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) principle. I don’t go looking for specific birds. When I see a bird which interests me I ask myself things like: Why is it there? What does it feed on? How does it avoid predators and how does it cope with competition?

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I like the challenge of photographing small birds in their natural habitat rather than on feeders. Although I have sometimes taken advantage of a bird on a feeder to get a good photograph, there is something about seeing a Nuthatch eating seed rather than probing tree trunks for insects, which does not sit comfortably in my mind.

The European Goldfinch favours partly wooded, lowland areas where it seeks out thistle and teasel seeds. A few days ago, during a visit to the RSPB Burton Mere, Wetlands Reserve, UK I came across two juvenile Goldfinches feeding on thistles just a few feet away from seed feeders. The immediate habitat in which they were feeding clearly provided useful camouflage as well as food; their plumage blended in so well.

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Finches quite often share habitats and food sources. The co-existence of various species and avoidance of competition is ensured by niche separation.

The Goldfinch is quite often seen in company with the Chaffinch and the Greenfinch. The Chaffinch nests about 4.5 metres from the ground in a fork close to the trunk of the tree.

The Goldfinch is a bit more wary and nests about 6metres up but often chooses thin, outer twigs which makes it more difficult for potential predators to reach the nest. It feeds chicks on fine seeds. The Greenfinch tends to favour more open areas than the Goldfinch and feeds on a variety of larger seeds.

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