Goldfinches year-round…

I’ve been watching Goldfinches for at least 20 years now, and they still entertain me with their persistence and antics, especially at the bird feeder at this time of the year.

When I moved “up-country” to Shumway, Arizona (in the White Mountains) was the first time I really noticed them. The year before, I’d put out a bird feeder and filled it with sunflower seed for the wild birds. Many of the local Scrub Jays took advantage, and being Jays, they planted an entire acre of sunflowers for me before I realized it.

The next spring and summer, I watched in amazement as my semi-weedy acre slowly transformed into a solid, head-high, forest of green plants and golden flowers. But that was just the beginning!

As the Sunflowers began to bloom, there were suddenly a flock of tiny, darting, chipping birds working their way through the flowers. I saw them as they’d land on a flowerhead and carefully comb through the pollen and petals, apparently eating any insects that thought they could hide.

By the time all the sunflowers were blooming, I had a daily flock visit of at least a couple of hundred birds, busily darting through the air, chirping madly, discussing whatever it is birds talk about. It astonished me how many little birds could fit on an acre, and how they got along.

When courting, the male sings while showing off his flight skills in an acrobatic way. They are very distinctive in flight, appearing to bounce up and down above the fields.

These little birds don’t start nesting until mid-summer, which is later than most of our songbirds. Nests are built by the female, and she constructs a compact and solid cup from spiderwebs, plant down like dandelion and thistle fluff, and plant fibers. Some nests are so tightly built they’ll actually hold water!

Nests are usually hidden in a tree fork located in deciduous shrubs or trees less than 30 feet above ground. The hen then lays anywhere from two to seven blue eggs, and she incubates them alone for 12 to 14 days.

The male feeds her while she sets on the eggs, then both parents will feed the babies for another 11 to 17 days until they fledge. Then the young birds start learning what to eat on their own, while the parents continue to feed them less each day.

Some people refer to them as the “Wild Canary”, and they do have a sweet (but soft) song. As the weather warms up here, I get to watch them change color from their winter drab to that eye-catching bright gold. The color is dependent on their diet! Just like a tame canary, if they don’t get the right pigments from what they eat, they won’t be as bright a color.

Watch your goldfinches as they plunder your bird feeder, then fly off to hit up the thistles and other “weeds” that have small seeds. They’re bright enough to put a sparkle into your morning, and will continue to return to your flowers, yard, and feeder for years to come.

As always, please email me at FlamingPurpleJellyfish@gmail.com with questions, comments or corrections! I LOVE to hear from my readers!!

Sources: http://www.audubon.org, forum.americanexpedition.us/american-goldfinch-information

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