From the perspective of striking plumage, not much can compare to the colourful enjoyment that is an encounter with an American Goldfinch. While there are many other birds that compare (looking at you, Cardinal), the American Goldfinch is a true favourite of spring and summer here in the Ottawa area.
With both sexes sporting a wonderful yellow plumage through this time of year, it is the males that truly shine. Pairing their yellow plumage with striking black markings on their heads, they are a marvel to behold at your tube feeders.
No, I Don’t Migrate!
Contrary to the belief of few, these birds are with us through much of the year. While they do tend to disappear for weeks at a time, they always return, typically when the getting is good. These small birds will travel both north and south of us in search of mates or superior food sources. Unlike the majority of our other birds, American Goldfinch are extremely late nesters. Most of the ones in our area are now in the nesting phase, which can at times, stretch right into August.
One point of confusion for most is the stark contrast in which the plumage of these bird changes through the seasons. A summer American Goldfinch will look completely different through the fall and winter months. It is during this time that their plumage will fade into an almost grey colouring, of which some will confuse with other finch species or sparrow bird species.
While these birds are often found in regular feeders with many other species, they do have some preferences when it comes to feeding. As most of you have heard, we are all about natural habitat and wildflower patches and this is exactly where they can be found foraging for their favourite seeds, especially this time of the year. As many of these plants mature and produce seeds, these areas will become favourite haunts of these small yellow birds and offer a great opportunity to observe them away from traditional feeders.
Outside of that, they LOVE nyjer seed presented in tube feeders. Our tube feeders are constructed to withstand the elements and can accommodate a number of finches at the same time. As an example, we hang four tube feeders in our yard each equipped with eight perching stations. More often than not, every perch will be taken (yes, 32 finches!) and can offer some superb birding entertainment as they jockey for position.
As with everything birding, if you have any questions or are in need of assistance getting your yard set up for American Goldfinch or any other species, we’d love to help!