I grow burdock (borre) in the garden both as a vegetable but also for the birds. Goldfinches / stillits (still relatively rare in my area) eat almost exclusively the seeds of this plant in winter. This year I cut down a few of the plants and placed them in a large pot of earth right in front of the kitchen window…and 4 birds discovered it today. How they avoid the burrs attaching to them is a mystery….
Some of the seed burrs had fallen to the ground in a storm a week ago. This video starts with siskins feeding next to the window on birch seeds:
Sitting at my desk this morning I noticed the winter’s first goldfinch (stillits) sitting having a scratch in a tree in the garden (first video)….and the rest of the flock of more than 10 birds were feeding on burdock (borre) in the garden. The first ever large flocks of goldfinches started overwintering in my area in my garden in 2003 and have been a regular feature ever since, attracted to seed of burdock which I’ve been growing as vegetables in the garden for many years! Nowadays this bird has established itself in the lowlands around the Trondheimsfjord! This is another reason why winter is the most beautiful time of year here, despite the loss of direct sunshine for several weeks!
A small number of goldfinches spend their winter holiday in the lowlands around Trondheimsfjord, a very good choice I would say! I’ve never seen them in summer here . I heard the characteristic twittering flight call this morning for the first time this winter and then saw 4 of them this afternoon on burdock (borre) seed heads next to my outhouse (see the two videos below). Goldfinches have long and thin bills allowing them to extract seeds from burdock, other thistles, sunflowers and teasel /kardeborre (Dipsacus), although they have never shown any interest in the teasel I’ve grown for them.
You can read how my growing burdock as a vegetable attracted them to my garden , at that time a rare bird in this area: http://www.edimentals.com/blog/?p=8810
The map below shows the concentration of sightings of flocks of goldfinches in Malvik in my garden and elsewhere nearby from Malvik to Midtsandan, on the southern shores of the fjord (only flocks of more than 20 birds are plotted).
The Goldfinches (stillits) are back. They are winter visitors here and, as far as I know, it isn’t known where these birds breed, perhaps in the Baltic states /Finland, moving westwards to overwinter in our warmer weather!
These beautiful birds started appearing in my garden some 15 years ago as I grew and saved seed of vegetable burdock (borre) or Arctium lappa, their main food here in winter. At that time my garden was the best place to see them and I had several visits from bird photographers and birdwatchers to see them. It must be a bad year for burdock (there’s not much in my garden) as they’ve gone straight for the bird feeder, something that doesn’t usually happen until later in the winter.