When To Put Out Thistle Seed For Finches (Explained)


Finches are a very well-known group of seed-eating birds with solid, stubby bills, short legs, and stocky bodies. You may be familiar with them from your local neighborhood or further afield.

If you want to attract finches to your yard, thistle seeds are some of the best types to place on a feeder. Finches love thistle seeds, as they contain a high fatty acid and oil concentration that is vital for the birds.

You don’t want to be putting out thistle seed at the wrong time of the year, would you? So when should you put out thistle seed for finches?

You’re about to discover when you should feed your beloved yard finches thistle seeds.

When To Put Out Thistle Seed For Finches

Finches, like the house finch, will always eat thistle seeds, so they will be attracted to your thistle seed feeders all year round if available. 

However, the best time to put out thistle seeds is at the end of autumn and the beginning of winter.

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Thistle seeds are an excellent source of oils, fatty acids, and other nutrients the finches use for warmth and energy, which helps them survive the winter.

Most finches aren’t migratory, so they spend winters in cold areas when the thistle seeds become vital for survival.

The thistle seeds are essential during that time as the finches still have the energy to search for food, and by eating thistle seeds, they can build up nutrition before the winter weather strikes.

During winter, food is more scarce for the finches and other birds, so your thistle seed feeder will become a welcomed attraction that provides an additional food source during the cold, harsh winter days.

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The birds will appreciate your thistle seed feeder as it is always in the same place and easily accessible.

If you provide enough thistle seed for the finches during winter, your yard could become the finches’ favorite place, and you’ll constantly have a range of birds visiting you.

How To Attract Finches To A New Feeder

Finches are some of the easiest birds to attract to your yard by simply placing a feeder out and providing them with fresh seeds like thistle. 

But there are ways to help speed up the process and increase the chances of finches being attracted to your new feeder.

1. Choose The Right Type Of Feeder

The first step when attracting finches to your yard is purchasing the correct feeder type. Finches aren’t usually fussy, but you should select a finch feeder designed for finches to land on, with the seeds easily accessible.

The best types of feeders for finches are finch stations, feeder tubes, and feeder socks. Any of those will be loved by the finches that investigate them.

In particular, finches love feeder socks as they can easily access the seeds while hanging on the sock like a branch. They are also easy for you to install and refill.

2. Choose A Safe Location

The location of the new feeder is critical. Finches prefer visiting feeders close to trees and shrubs so they can escape if they feel threatened by predators like cats, small raptors, and snakes.

If you place your feeder out in the open, the finches may feel vulnerable and won’t visit the feeder.

To make the finches feel more comfortable around your feeder, you can place a bird bath for them to visit and entice them to visit your feeder more frequently.

Another point regarding the safety of the finches is that you should place the feeder away from any windows, glass doors, or other glass panels.

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Doing that will reduce the chances of the finches flying into the glass and stunning themselves or dying.

3. Use The Correct Type Of Seeds

The seeds you use make a big difference when trying to attract finches. Birds have their preferred food, and those foods containing many nutrients will surely make the finches visit your feeder.

Your best bet is to buy mixed seed packs containing their favorite seeds like thistle, Nyjer, and sunflower seeds.

Each finch species will have its preferred seed type, so you may have to change the variety of seeds according to the diversity of species you want to attract.

You need to remember that the other seed types may attract larger birds like sparrows and starlings that will chase the finches away and stop them from visiting your feeder.

4. Keep The Feeder Clean

Keeping the feeder clean is one of the most important things to do when attracting finches to a new feeder. Dirty feeders are often the main reason for finches not visiting feeders.

That is because birds like high-quality food. They can smell and see good food from a distance, and clean feeders look more inviting.

Removing old seeds, cleaning up any messes, and replacing the old seeds with new, fresh ones are the things you should do regularly.

5. Hang Bright Objects

Finches notice bright colors, especially when they move. It is a good idea to catch their attention by hanging colorful ribbons that blow in the wind near the feeder.

Placing ribbons right next to your feeder will get the finches to land right next to or on the feeder.

6. Keep Your Yard Natural

Where do you frequently see many finches? In natural areas, right?

Finches love natural environments, so keeping your garden as natural as possible will make it attractive to birds.

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You will attract finches to your yard if it resembles their natural habitat, such as woodlands. It will make them want to visit.

To create habitat diversity in your yard, plant colorful flowering and non-flowering plants with different shapes, colors, and textures.

You should have a good mix of thick shrubs, tall trees, and other suitable vegetation to shelter the finches and provide nesting sites.


In conclusion, you should aim to put thistle seed out for birds at the end of autumn and the beginning of winter when the birds need to stock up on resources.

Thistle seeds are essential for finches as they contain many nutrients – particularly fatty acids and oils. They are also an important additional food source during cold winter days.

Not only do the thistle seeds benefit them in winter, but it also means they are better prepared for the breeding season during spring and summer.

Now that you know when and why to put out thistle seeds, you should put it into practice and install a feeder for your feathered friends.

Get Our FREE Bird Feeder Cheat Sheet
Want more birds in your backyard? Get simple tips on attracting feathered friends and maximizing your bird feeding setup. Our free cheat sheet has got you covered!
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Tristan Silver

Tristan is a South African biologist, photographer, and birder. From a young age, he developed a passion for the outdoors, being taught basic biology and shown animals in their natural habitat. He picked up photography at age 11, and it led him into the world of birding and exploring. He has traveled throughout South Africa, documenting over 630 bird species. He is also interested in amphibians, reptiles, insects, and some plants. He uses photography to document his experiences and has had his photographs appear in African Birdlife magazine. Tristan holds an Advanced Scuba Diving qualification and has dived on many coral reefs. He completed his honours degree in Biological Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He is also a writer, expressing and sharing his emotions from his experiences through his writing, combined with photographs.

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