Are sunflower hearts the secret to attracting garden Goldfinches?

21 Jan 2016 | No. 2016-03

With record numbers of Goldfinches being seen in gardens this winter, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) wants to know what it is about our gardens that they are attracted to. The Goldfinch Feeding Survey has been running for two months, and so far sunflower hearts seem to be the most popular food type amongst Goldfinches – but is this the case in your garden?

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Goldfinches are an increasingly common sight in our gardens and this winter has been no exception. The BTO’s Garden BirdWatch (GBW) has revealed that Goldfinches were seen in a record 61% of gardens towards the end of December, compared to an average of 52% over the last decade. This increase in Goldfinches is being investigated through the Goldfinch Feeding Survey, the aim of which is to determine what it is that attracts them into gardens. The results so far show that sunflower hearts are the most popular food type in gardens, with 40% more records than nyger seed.

Clare Simm, the Goldfinch Feeding Survey organiser said, "Thousands of people have taken part in our survey so far, providing us with valuable information about what might be behind the dramatic increase in the garden Goldfinch population. We’re also interested in how the feeding habits of Goldfinches changes over the winter, and with the survey running until the end of February, there’s still time for people to take part!"

Do Goldfinches feed on sunflower hearts in your garden, do they prefer nyger seed or do they shun your feeders completely? Taking part in the survey involves just watching the Goldfinches in your garden for two minutes, and telling us what they were feeding on. Your help is needed to understand the increase of this colourful bird.

To find out more about the BTO Goldfinch Feeding Survey or to download the instructions on how to take part, visit If you have any queries, please contact the Garden Ecology team by phone 01842 750050 or email gbw [at]

Notes for Editors

  1. More about the Goldfinch Feeding Survey can be found here:
  2. This survey is being run by the BTO Garden BirdWatch team. The BTO Garden BirdWatch is the only nationwide survey of garden birds to run weekly throughout the year, providing important information on how birds use gardens, and how this use changes over time. Currently, some 13,000 people take part in the project. The project is funded by participants’ contributions and is the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world. For more information see
  3. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation

Contact Details

Clare Simm
(BTO Goldfinch Feeding Survey Organiser)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: clare.simm [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2016-03

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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