Posts Tagged ‘winter birds’

Male American goldfinch during mating season.

In most parts of the Pacific Northwest, goldfinches are year-round birds. Lately, I’ve had a fun variety of birds visiting our feeders: black-capped chickadees, dark-eyed juncos, Steller’s jays, downy woodpeckers, a northern flicker or two, spotted towhees, house finches, and more. The goldfinches, however, have been AWOL for the past couple of weeks.

Even so, I noticed something strange about them when they were here last: There didn’t seem to be any males among them. Instead, my thistle sock seemed to be covered with the more drabbily-dressed females.

American goldfinch in winter plumage

But it turns out that the males were there, just incognito. Male goldfinches, you see, are only bright yellow in the spring — when they’re working hard to attract mates, and those yellow feathers tend to stick around through summer. By fall, the bright yellow feathers have molted and the males are almost indistinguishable from the girls (I say almost, because I did see a “drab” male the other day). At this time of year, all that energy it took to produce those handsome yellow feathers several months ago will now be used by the little guys to stay warm (and alive) through the fall and winter.

If you’re not seeing goldfinches much right now, it may be due to some of them flying south for the winter. Some do stick around, though, which is more likely if your yard is a reliable food source — so keep those feeders full!

Sally

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