This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the lesser goldfinch.
Lesser goldfinches are smaller than a song sparrow and have bright yellow (males) or dull yellow (females and immatures) undersides. Their wings are black, long and pointed and marked with white patches. The male may have a green back and black head cap, or glossy black back and head. Females and immatures display a dull olive back color. Tails are black, short, and notched, with white corners. Lesser goldfinches have conical, short-stubbed bills and are known for mimicking other birds’ songs, using twittering, chiming call notes. They are known to call in flight.
Lesser goldfinches inhabit low valleys to high mountains, open and semi-open areas of thickets, brushy fields, trees, stream sides and garden areas. Their diet consists mainly of small weed seeds, thistles, sunflowers and, at times, buds of trees plus some berries. They will flock to, and dine with, other species at birdfeeders. In summer, they feed on small insects, especially aphids. Pagosa Springs appears to be an excellent environment to supply their needs. Numerous finches can be observed on our neighborhood feeders and in fields and along streams.
During breeding season (which may extend over most of the year in parts of the southwest), lesser goldfinches are monogamous within a colonial group. While the female incubates three to five eggs for 12-13 days, the male supplies her food and, later, the hatchlings’ food. Both parents continue feeding their young for the next two to three weeks.
The majority of lesser goldfinches are permanent residents and are very adaptable to a variety of climates, habitats and foods, which stabilizes this species.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.