Monday, May 18, 2009
The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a backyard bird feeder favorite. What is not to love? The males are gorgeous with their bright yellow( which comes from the carotenoid pigments from its diet) and black plumage. The females are a bit more subtle in their coloring, but pretty nonetheless. This coloring has also earned them another common name of wild canary. It will be the spring and summer mature males that have this coloring; immature males , females and winter mature males will all be the drabber more olive tone. I commonly have these at my feeders all year. Goldfinches are present in Missouri all year. In some areas of their range they will migrate, during the breeding season they will be found from Southern Canada to North Carolina, during the winter they will be found from just south of Canada to Mexico. They love nyger seed and black oil sunflower seeds. I've seen as many as 100-150 of these at feeders during the winter, especially when there are impending snow storms. It seems they sense the approaching bad weather and will gather at the feeders in large numbers as if it is their last meal. During the spring and summer I typically have 4 or 5 pairs. The males are often territorial and will chase other males away. The fights are rarely serious, and usually if you put out a couple of feeders it will resolve the issue. During nest building the males are aggressive towards any males in the area, females will also be aggressive towards other females. Once nest building is complete they will usually calm down. Goldfinches nest later than most other species, this is in part to the food they eat. In the wild thistles and other small seed bearing plants that the goldfinch loves are finally blooming. They will also use the the thistle down to line their nests. The female incubates the eggs, but she will call continually to the male. She will lay 5 to 6 bluish-white eggs approximately peanut size. The eggs hatch in 12-15 days. The young are fed regurgitated seeds by the female. They grow rapidly and in approximately 15 days they will start taking experimental flights away from the nest. If you would like to attract these gorgeous birds to your backyard, plant flowers that produce seeds they like, such as zinnia, coneflower, bee balm, and globe thistle. Also place thistle seed and black sunflower seeds in feeders, and provide fresh water.