In my August 2, 2019 blog, I reported how American goldfinches ravaged the blossoms displayed by the zinnia plants growing in the large containers set on our deck. Watching the beautiful birds plucking the petals off the flowers and then gorging themselves on the seeds nestled at the base of the petals was so entertaining we were hoping the birds would return for another performance this year. Last week my wife found red zinnia petals littering the floor of the deck. Much to our delight, the birds have returned.

         In 2019, we first observed this behavior in late July. It is interesting to note that this year my wife discovered the unmistakable evidence of the birds’ activities late in June. We cannot help but wonder why the birds are visiting the flowers so much earlier this year.  

         In addition, another mystery has emerged. While red, pink, white, and orange zinnias are blooming in the same containers, so far the birds are only eating the seeds of the red zinnias. Is this a coincidence? Who knows?

         If zinnias are currently blooming on your deck or in your garden, keep your eyes peeled for zinnia petals scattered beneath the plants. If you find them, chances are, if you closely watch the plants, you will be able to witness this fascinating behavior.

         If you don’t have zinnias growing in your backyard, it is not too late to plant some. Zinnias have plenty of time to blossom and provide goldfinches with a late summer banquet.


  1. Fascinating observation! We have many gold finches that visit our yard. I need to plant some Zinnias so I can see this behavior. Love bird watching! 😊

  2. It is crazy! The gold finches literally destroyed my zinnias on my deck close to the hummingbird feeders! I have pots of zinnias in my front yard, and the finches have not bothered those blooms.

  3. Goldfinches also frequent our black eyed susans. If I don’t cut them back in the fall, the finches continue to feed on the seed heads.

  4. I was wondering why the petals were all over my deck an witness the gold finches it was beautiful I plan on planting more next year

    • Joyce,
      Honestly, I cannot offer a method to stop the behavior. You might try offering nyger or black oil sunflower seeds nearby your gardens. If the birds need the seeds to survive, I don’t mind them eating my zinnia seeds. You might also consider deadheading your zinnias when the birds begin working on them. In this way, you have a chance of getting a second crop of zinnia blossoms and then let the birds enjoy them later. As for my wife and I we enjoy the zinnias and the birds feeding on the the seeds the birds produce.

  5. I couldn’t figure out why my zinnias were losing petals! Then my husband saw a goldfinch land on the stem and start pulling out the petals…
    then onto the seeds! Very interesting to see….
    I like my goldfinches and zinnias but would rather enjoy them separately!

    • Anonymous,
      The goldfinches have been attacting our zinnia blooms for a few weeks. It is indeed a fascinating behavior–a little messy but fun to watch.

    • I agree they are voracious. I think one of the reasons whey they feed so heavily on zinnias is we have destroyed so much of the bird’s natural habitat they are forced to feed in the relatively few remaining spots they can find seeds to their liking. By offering them seeds in our feeders and seeds from ornamental plants in our garden we are helping fill this void.

  6. Not only do the gold finches attack the zinnia blossoms, they also strip the plants of their leaves. They are voracious.

  7. Try overplanting your Zinnias so there is enough for them to feast on before they get to your deck. Try planting a border of them near your deck as a “trap” so they will stop before they get to your deck. Farmers apply this method to their crops as pest control + it can be pretty effective. Good luck!

    • Erin,

      Thanks for the timely tip. It was so good I made it the subject of my most recent blog. Keep your tips coming!

      • I have tried that but they seem to destroy the biggest red and yellow blooms. This year they were attacking again but I put up a finch feeder away from the zinna garden and it took a while but they have discovered it and have been leaving my zinnas alone.

    • Joyce,

      That is a very interesting observation. I wonder if others have noted the same thing. Thanks for sharing it.


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