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  • John Sterling Poole

Orange and Gold Coming to Town



It is always sad to say goodbye to painted buntings and hummingbirds come October. These colorful birds follow summer which means heading south. There are a handful of things that you need to do to see them off successfully! That is what the last post was about. This post is going to focus on our winter guests!


When painted buntings and hummingbirds leave, the goldfinches and orioles come! While I personally prefer the buntings over the orioles, I still can’t help but be amazed by their orange color. The goldfinches are also fun because they can congregate on a single feeder! The great news about both of these birds is that there are unique foods that can draw them in.



Let’s focus in on the goldfinches first. The first thing everyone needs to know is that goldfinches lose their bright yellow color in the winter which leaves them with this brownish colors. Often times you can see hints of yellow in the underbellies. Tons of folks think that they have an influx of house finches or sparrows in the colder months. The reality is that the goldfinches have moved in.



Goldfinches, like most birds, love to eat sunflower chips. However, since finches are so small, they prefer diced up chips which are easier to ingest for them. What they really go crazy for is thistle (also known as nyjer). This seed is incredible small which is why thistle needs its own special feeder. Some folks, myself included, like to sprinkle in some thistle into their feeders. However, most folks have better success with the standalone thistle feeder (or sock). One thing to be aware of with thistle, though, is that it is incredible susceptible to moisture. Thistle can go bad overnight is enough moisture gets into the feeder. Giving the feeder a couple of shakes periodically to keep it fresh. Goldfinches are incredibly particular about their food too, so a weather guard can really make a difference for your birds.



Orioles are way wackier in terms of diet. I do not know of a bird that eats such a variety of foods as the Baltimore Orioles. These bright orange birds are like hummingbirds in the sense that they are drawn to a specific color: orange. Orioles help identify their feeders by that color. Most folks put out orange slices which the orioles will eat. Orioles will also slurp nectar (same recipe as hummingbirds) bizarrely enough. They devour mealworms as well. Most oriole feeders have multiple perches or dispensers since they eat so many different things. What is most recognizable about an oriole’s diet is grape jelly. Orioles love the jelly and will come consistently as long as it is fresh. Some folks use regular jelly that they can find in a grocery store. However, I do not recommend this at all! Those jellies were made for humans; orioles deserve jellies that are made for birds. Every once in a while, orioles can be seen eating some sunflower chips but that is incredibly rare.


Both of these winter visitors have those particular diets which is how you draw them in, but true birders do not simply want them to be a stop and shop for birds. They want their yards to be a sanctuary for their birds. Like all other birds, providing a steady source of water is crucial (especially in winter). You also can preserve your seed quality and keep it edible for the birds by getting a weather guard on your feeders. For orioles in particular, you need to make sure nothing infests the sweeter foods!



It is always fun to welcome these friends back into town, and we want to make sure we provide the highest quality foods for them! They have journeyed quite a distance to make it to Charleston; it is our responsibility to help them enjoy their stay!

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