AMERICAN GOLDFINCH: Thistle Bird

By Dave Hanks
9/3/09

This common, brilliant yellow bird is trimmed with black. It is sometimes referred to, by non-bird watchers, as a wild canary. It is very abundant in Cassia and surrounding counties. It is also very recognizable in summer when all decked out in breeding plumage. During winter, it is harder to identify because its colors have been greatly modified. Most birds in its family molt just once a year, but the American Goldfinch does so in fall and also in spring before the breeding season.

Goldfinches are seed eaters and can readily be attracted to feeders at all times of the year. They especially prefer thistle (Niger) seed. In fact, thistle is important as nesting material and they can often be seen perched in a patch of this infamous plant. It is a late nester waiting until late June or July when the thistle comes into bloom. Though monogamous during a nesting cycle, the female (after producing her first brood) will leave the male the responsibility to raise the chicks. She will then take a new mate to produce the next crop.

Five inches long with black wings and a black crown contrasted against a bright yellow body makes identification easy. However, females lack the black cap. This bird is very gregarious and will usually be observed in a flock.

Special socks can be purchased to hold Niger seed, which can also be purchased, and you can watch these birds hanging upside-down on the sock picking out the tiny seeds.

(Resting in the shade outside our window)


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