Monday, May 7, 2007

American Goldfinch

I have been waiting to snap this little male finch for a year or so. I put out a thistle finch feeder last week, but only saw him once. I had the two "shepherd hook" feeded holders right together for ease of photography. The other birds seemed to be scaring off the finches so I separated the hooks by 6 feet or so. Immediately the finches started coming in in the morning and evening. I hear their beautiful song all the time, now.

A familiar and abundant small colorful bird, the American Goldfinch is frequently found in weedy fields and visiting feeders. It shows a particular fondness for thistles, eating the seeds and using the down to line its nest.

Description

  • Small bird.
  • Bill small, pointed, conical, and pink.
  • Body bright yellow to dull brown.
  • Wings dark with large white wingbars.
  • Tail short and notched.
  • Breeding male bright yellow with black cap and wings.
  • Size: 11-13 cm (4-5 in)
  • Wingspan: 19-22 cm (7-9 in)
  • Weight: 11-20 g (0.39-0.71 ounces)
  • Summer male is bright yellow with a black cap whereas female is drab olive. Sexes similar and drab in winter.
  • Song a long series of twittering and warbling notes. Common contact call a "tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit," often given in flight. May be described as "per-chic-o-ree" or "po-ta-to-chip.
  • The American Goldfinch changes from winter plumage to breeding plumage by a complete molt of its body feathers. It is the only member of its family to have this second molt in the spring; all the other species have just one molt each year in the fall.
  • The American Goldfinch is one of the latest nesting birds. It usually does not start until late June or early July, when most other songbirds are finishing with breeding. The late timing may be related to the availability of suitable nesting materials and seeds for feeding young.
  • The American Goldfinch is gregarious throughout the year. In winter it is found almost exclusively in flocks. In the breeding season it feeds in small groups. Whether it maintains breeding territories is debatable.
  • The American Goldfinch is mostly monogamous, but a number of females switch mates after producing a first brood. The first male takes care of the fledglings while the female goes off to start another brood with a different male.

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Gabby Faye
Michigan, United States
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