Bird of the Week: Lesser Goldfinch

Photo Courtesy of National Audubon Society

Photo Courtesy of National Audubon Society

Species: Lesser Goldfinch, or Spinus psaltria

Family: Fringillidae (True Finches)

Star sign: Aquarius

Rating: 10/10

Ideal Date: As long as you notice it, it’s not picky

There’s a good chance you’ve never heard of the lesser goldfinch before. Of the three different kinds of goldfinches found in North America, it is outshined in every way by its much brighter and more common cousin, the American goldfinch, which is a familiar denizen of suburbs and countrysides all across the continental US. In comparison, the lesser goldfinch’s pale-yellow coat and limited south-western range seem a little dull. Even it’s name denotes it as Lesser. But there is just as much to love about this shy, unrecognized friend as there is about any other bird!

For one, lesser goldfinches have one of the more cheerful diets that a bird could have — they feed primarily on the seeds of plants in the sunflower family. What a fun way to get your daily calories, by chomping down on the delicious, crunchy seeds of such a beautiful flower! These yellow friends have great taste, in more ways than one. Not only that, but lesser goldfinches are talented mimics, a skill which the more famous American goldfinch lacks. Lesser goldfinches can faithfully recreate the songs of dozens of birds they’ve encountered, and sometimes even mimic squirrel barks! So talented!

Reed is situated at the very tip of this feathery friend’s range where they can be found year round. The lesser goldfinch bears a strong resemblance to the American goldfinch in size and coloration, but the male’s feathers are slightly paler, and here out west he has a black cap on his head and a dark, pine-green back; females are a uniform beige-grey-yellow color. Both have black and white barring on their wings, as well as strong triangular beaks. They spend their days flitting around open, thick grassy land such as fields and pastures, so keep an eye out for them near the sports field and its surrounding foliage. And if you do see one of these unsung songbirds, make sure to give it some love! It needs it! After all, it may be lesser, but it’s still great.

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