About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Goldfinches overwinter in Michigan

Hello, I’ve lived my whole life in NYC where I occasionally woke to a pigeon. We just moved to East Lansing or “mid-Michigan” as my wife tells her friends, and wake up to a cacophony of bird songs in the morning. Curiosity led me to your journaling site on the internet and you have answered so many of my questions. Is it too late to put up a finch feeder?

A charm of finches chatting at the feeders is a welcome sight!

That is a good question! The American Goldfinch is one of my favorite backyard songbirds because of its butterfly like flight and delicate song.

Many people don't realize that the Goldfinches are not bright yellow all year. In fact they are the only finch in North America to go through a complete molt two times a year. In the fall the male loses his bright yellow feathers and black cap and switches to a duller olive green wardrobe with dark, blackish wings and pale wing bars.

Both male and female goldfinches have a similar duller olive green winter wardrobe. They are found year-round at Michigan bird feeders, so it is always a good time to put up a finch feeder.

I love the happy, warm, song of the goldfinches especially in the cold months. I love the huge flocks of finches that flutter down from the tops of trees as they take their turn at the feeder. I love that I can hang the feeder anywhere because squirrels and other animals don't bother with Nyjer® Thistle. And once you understand the goldfinches' needs, they are easy to please and very pleasing to watch.

Fun Facts on Goldfinches:
- Unlike many birds, goldfinches molt their body feathers twice a year, bright, attractive yellow feathers in the spring before breeding and much denser olive brown feathers after nesting in the fall.
- The color of the legs, feet and bill of the American Goldfinch change with each feather molt too. In winter plumage, their legs, feet and bill are dark grayish brown. In breeding plumage they change to a buffy yellow orange color.
- To stay warm on a cold winter’s night, American Goldfinches have been known to burrow under the snow to form a cozy sleeping cavity. They will also roost together in coniferous trees or roosting pockets.
- Goldfinches are sometimes referred to as wild canaries, but are actually in the finch family as their name suggests.
- American Goldfinches are common feeder visitors and prefer Nyjer® (thistle) and sunflower seeds.
- Due to their almost exclusive diet of seeds, the goldfinches drink frequently and will stay close to reliable sources of water.
- The genus name, Caruelis, is from the Latin word carduus, which means “thistle.”
- Residential flocks of American Goldfinches roam widely during the winter and have been recorded moving over 4 miles between multiple feeding stations in a single day.
- Female American Goldfinches are dominant over males in the summer and appear to be subservient to them in the winter. See if you call tell a difference at your feeders.

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