Discover Nature: American Goldfinches
January 31 - February 6
Discover nature this week as you witness male American goldfinches molt into their bright breeding plumage.
In nature, there are beauties and there are annoyances. Sometimes it is hard to see how a sticky thing like a thistle could be in the same arena as a beauty like the American goldfinch.
If you filled your birdfeeders with sunflower seeds, you are likely to see plenty of American goldfinches over winter as they are exclusive seed-eaters and prefer sunflower seeds. If you wish to see more of these photogenic birds, try a finch feeder with small perches that will lessen competition from larger birds.
Though they are one of the latest to initiate breeding in the late summer, the time is right for American goldfinches to molt out of their dull winter plumage into the bright yellow that causes the nickname “wild canaries,” and helps the bird attract a mate – and every nearby nature photographer.
But there is also more to these birds than their attractive golden feathers.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, American goldfinches seek out rural areas, weedy fields, and brushy thickets during the breeding season, which falls in July or August and happens to correspond with the fruiting of native thistles.
One of the most interesting facts about the American goldfinch is that they provide a perfect example of how native species depend on one another to survive.
According to Tim Smith with the Missouri Department of Conservation, this bird’s reproduction is directly linked to the fruiting of the thistles. As Smith pointed out in an August 2009 blog, Goldfinches not only eat thistle seeds, but they also use the downy fruits to line their nests, sometimes using caterpillar or spider silk to bind its edges. The nests are so tightly woven that they reportedly will hold water.