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Nature Blog Network
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

american goldfinch male winter

American GoldfinchCarduelis tristis – also known as the Eastern Goldfinch (here in Iowa, anyway), Chardonneret jaune (French), Dominiquito viajero (Spanish), Dominiquito triste (Spanish).

As I’ve mentioned before, the American Goldfinch might be my favorite bird. It is the State Bird of Iowa, it is very common, and I love its little song and/or chirp, which always sounds like he is asking me a question. The above shot is of a young male Amerian Goldfinch. Look here to see a photo of the adult American Goldfinch in his bright yellow and black-capped sumer plumage. American Goldfinches are the only bird in their family that molt twice a year. In the spring the males molt into a bright yellow with a black cap, while the females molt into a bright yellow. In the fall, the males molt into the above. The black cap disappears, the yellow dulls, and the cap, nape, and back take on an olive-brown color. Females look alike, but take on an olive-green color. Thus, American Goldfinches are distinguishable sex-wise throughout the year.

In Iowa, these guys stick around pretty much all year. They seem to be more abundant in the summer, feeding 10 – 20 at a time at a single feeder, but there will be plenty of them this winter, too, as long as I keep a nice stash of nyjer thistle out there (and some unfrozen water in the birdbath).

Female breeding / summer plumage here.

Male breeding / summer here.

Female non-breeding / winter plumage here.

Posted by: Mike in: Birds,Iowa at 12:01 am

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  • http://parvumopus.blogspot.com olivia

    LOL, great photo Moe.

  • http://arkansasbirding.blogspot.com Karl C.

    Great description of the plummage. I may have a female around my feeders that has taken on her winter plummage. I only saw the bird for a split second last week, but the olive-green color best describes the appearance of the bird I saw.

  • http://www.iowavoice.com Moe

    Thanks, Liv. :)

    Karl – I have the hardest time distinguishing between male and female finches in the winter. I think there is a fine line between “brown” and “green.” Luckily, with photography, we can capture the bird’s image and give it a little study, which makes it a bit easier.

  • http://dustyd-flyawayhome.blogspot.com sandy

    Great photo. I love the goldfinches too and so many come to the feeders..


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  • http://www.empacc.net/~kestrelhaven/ john gregoire

    Your photo is of a young male goldfinch and not representative of an adult in winter plumage.


    • http://www.iowavoice.com Moe

      Thanks, John. How can you tell?

  • http://www.empacc.net/~kestrelhaven/ john gregoire

    Moe, After banding thousands of these birds it comes second nature. I look first at both the degree of blackness in the wing feathers and the amount of yellow in the scapulars. An adult male would display at least some yellow here while in winter plumage. There are a few other more esoteric coloration clues in the wing structure but these might tend to confuse folks. Goldfinch also have the most compicated molt scheme of the passerines. As always it is easier to make these calls in hand as so many factors can mislead you in photos.

    There is a gradual changeover from the easily identifiable young of the year in fall to their winter plumage in Dec-spring.

    You do a nice job here. Thanks. BTW, around the Finger Lakes of NY the common name is “wild canary”.

    Hope that helps a bit,

    • http://www.iowavoice.com Moe

      Thanks, John. I appreciate it.

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