Among all the signs of Spring, one of my favorites is the yellowing of our American Goldfinches. This goldfinch is abundant throughout the United States and is the State Bird of three states, one on the East Coast, one in the Mid-West, and one on the Pacific Coast. (New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington)
The goldfinch molts all its feathers twice a year; once in late summer and once in late winter. Their Spring plumage is bright yellow for the males and a duller yellowish/green for the females. They turn bright yellow long before their breeding season. Being seed-eaters, they do not breed until much later than most of our birds. They wait until the thistle and other fibrous seed-bearing plants provide their seeds. If you haven't planted milkweed for the Monarchs, the goldfinches give you another reason. If you plant it they will come.
Goldfinches migrate south during the winter. And lucky us, they stay around here all year long. Some of our resident birds are joined by migrants while other migrants move on further south.
At this time of year there seems to be great variation in color. Some of the male goldfinches have turned a brilliant yellow while others are still rather muted.
You can see the color variation on these birds at the deck water basin.
We love having these active little birds
It isn't clear what the real lifespan of the goldfinch might be, but one banded goldfinch was monitored for more than ten years.
The single negative thing about American Goldfinches would be the fact that Pine Siskins will flock with them. So if there is a irruption of Pine Siskins and you have a lot of goldfinches, you will be mobbed by those pesky siskins.
In our state and some others, American Goldfinches have now become infected with House Finch Eye Disease. So if you see a bird with a diseased eye, it might have this very contagious conjunctivitis. If you notice any sick finches you should take down all your seed feeders. Empty them and clean them with a 10% bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Allow them to dry thoroughly. It's a good idea to keep the feeders down for several days to discourage congregation of birds who might be infected. Rake under the feeders or blow away all remaining seeds and bird droppings.
And enjoy these little acrobatic birds that brighten up our days.