Thursday, June 7, 2012

Today's Trivia - American Goldfinch

Who doesn’t adore goldfinches with their bright yellow plumage (I know, males only, and only during mating season) that I fondly refer to as ‘peepsters’ for that cute little ‘peeping’ sound they make. This week’s useless but interesting information is all about them.

- The American Goldfinch, also known as the Eastern Goldfinch and Wild Canary, is a small North American bird in the finch family.

- Also known as the Eastern Goldfinch and Wild Canary, the American Goldfinch is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season and from just south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter.

- The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt in the spring and autumn. It is the only cardueline finch to undergo a molt twice a year.

- During the winter molt, it sheds all its feathers; in the spring, it sheds all but the wing and tail feathers, which are dark brown in the female and black in the male.

- In the summer, the body of the male is a brilliant lemon yellow; the head sports a jet black cap. The brightly coloured plumage during the breeding season attracts a mate.

- After the autumn molt, the bright summer feathers are replaced by an olive-brown shade above, with a pale yellow face and bib.

- The female is a dull yellow-brown shade which brightens only slightly during the summer.

- The American Goldfinch is a social bird, and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating. It may behave territorially during nest construction, but this aggression is short-lived.

- The breeding season is in late July, which is relatively late in the year for a finch. This is because the breeding season is tied to the peak of food supply.

- Generally monogamous, most American Goldfinches produce only one brood each year.

- The female builds the nest in late summer up to 30 feet off the ground in the terminal branches of a bush or tree. The male often accompanies the female on flights for nesting materials, and may carry some materials back, but he leaves the actual construction of the nest to the female. He perches nearby, singing and calling to his mate.

- The female uses stripped fibers from dead trees, weeds, vines, catkins and grass to construct the outer shell of the nest. The rim of the next is reinforced with bark bound by sticky spider silk and caterpillar webs. The nest is lined with plant down from thistles, milkweed, and cattails.

- Nests are woven so tightly that they can temporarily hold water.

- Goldfinches usually lay 4 to 6 bluish-white eggs that are oval in shape and roughly the size of a peanut.

- The male feeds the female while she incubates the eggs. The eggs hatch in 12 - 14 days.

- The young birds grow rapidly. They open their eyes after three days, and are fully grown within 11–15 days, at which time they begin to practice short flights close to the nest.

- For up to three weeks after fledging, the male is responsible for feeding the young birds. This job doesn't last long, though; within a month, the youngsters are completely independent.

- The American Goldfinch is principally a seed-eater, but it will occasionally eat insects, which are also fed to its young to provide protein.

- The oldest banded American Goldfinch recaptured in the wild had lived 11 years and 7 months.

- The oldest banded Lesser Goldfinch recaptured in the wild had lived 5 years and 8 months.

- To get through cold winter nights, Goldfinches occasionally sleep in cavities under the snow.

- Attempts were made to introduce the American Goldfinch into Bermuda in the 19th century, and Tahiti in 1938, but the species failed to become established.

- The American Goldfinch does not act aggressively toward predators within its territory; its only reaction is alarm calling. Predators include snakes, weasels, squirrels, and Blue Jays, which may destroy eggs or kill young, and hawks and cats, which pose a threat to both young and adults.

- Backyard birders easily attract American Goldfinches by offering them Nyjer thistle seed in feeders containing Nyjer thistle, and by planting grasses and perennial plants, such as zinnias, cosmos, bee balm, or globe thistle.

- The American Goldfinch prefers open country where weeds thrive, such as fields, meadows, flood plains, as well as roadsides, orchards, and gardens. It may also be found in open deciduous and riparian woodlands and areas of secondary growth.

- The American Goldfinch, or Eastern Goldfinch, is the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington.

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