In this very special
edition of In Scope ~ I am featuring Washington
States official State Bird, the American Goldfinch, also known as the
Willow Goldfinch. Nothing says spring better than watching the
male goldfinches exchange their tan winter plumage for a more showy
spring outfit of bright lemon yellow, topped off with a dapper black
I often see the male goldfinches during this season ~ singing their most beautiful songs from the tops of blossom laden apple trees. Their delightful songs fill the spring air as the male claims his territory or attempts to attract a mate.
Goldfinches are year round residents in Washington State, but I have chosen to feature them in spring since that is when we see them most often. There is so much to learn about these cheery little finches, lets learn more interesting facts about this species.
God Thought of It First !
Gardening For and Feeding Goldfinches
Since goldfinches are mainly seed eaters and only occasionally eat insects, goldfinches benefit from a variety of seed bearing plants. They also are good birds to have in your yard for weed control ~ since some of their favorite foods include thistle and dandelion seeds. Their favorite cultivated seed bearing flower is the sunflower. If you grow sunflowers this spring and summer and leave them to stand even after the stalks and flowers are brown and dry, the goldfinches will enjoy the seeds when they have ripened in the fall.
You can also create a 'wild corner' for wildlife. In this wild area, you could let plants like dandelions and thistle grow so that goldfinches can enjoy the seeds. If you don't want to let a corner "go wild" but still want to feed seed eating birds like goldfinches, here is a list of plants that seed eating birds enjoy.
Plant Picks for Goldfinches
Lettuce (You can let some lettuce plants in your vegetable garden go to seed.)
Nyger (or Niger)
Goldfinches love to visit feeding stations that are stocked with their two favorite feeder treats ~ sunflower and thistle (or Nyger) seed. They will eat from a variety of feeders ~ from tube, to hopper, to seed sock and tray feeders. Thistle and Nyger seeds are are best served in tube feeders specially designed for this type of seed or in a seed sock since they are so small and lightweight that they can be blown away in the wind if fed in an open tray feeder or scratched out and wasted by other bird species who are looking for something else to eat ! Goldfinches will also eat feeder foods like white millet ~ although thistle and sunflower seeds are their favorites.
The American Goldfinch's scientific name is Carduelis tristis. This small bird of the finch family is even smaller than a sparrow, measuring only 4 1/2 to 5 inches long. The male and female goldfinch look different from one another in the breeding season. The male goldfinch is a bright lemon yellow in the breeding season with a white rump and black wings with white markings. He also has a black tail and a black cap on his head. The female is a dull greenish-tan-yellow color with gray hues and has black wings and tail. She also has white wing markings. The male looks similar to the female in the winter ~ molting his bright yellow plumage for a more dull appearance.
Just as bright and cheery as their plumage ~ the American Goldfinches song is a welcome sound on beautiful spring days. They sing while flying across the sky in an undulating ("roller-coaster" like) fashion. The male will also sing beautiful melodies from a perch to defend his territory and attract a mate.
Imagine the sound of a bubbling spring or creek and the birds that live in that habitat ~ the image creates a wonderful picture of God's Creation in all of their spring beauty ! I love to think about how all of creation praises The Lord and shows how beautiful and creative He is. I will close with these verses,
"I will sing to The Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have any being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him; as for me, I will rejoice in The Lord." Psalm 104:33-34 AMP
Join me next month for another exciting edition of In Scope ~ featuring the Black-headed Grosbeak ~ another of our delightful spring songbirds ! Thanks for visiting and God bless you.
By, Jessi Wasell