I noticed this morning at the feeder, my male goldfinches are
already beginning to change colors from their dull winter olives to their brilliant buttercup yellows. This means spring’s a ‘coming.
But birds’ feathers don’t really change colors. They simply molt and grown new feathers of different colors. That explains the change.
Molting is the process by which birds replace their feathers. All birds molt. It’s like humans constantly growing new skin cells. Birds molt once or twice a year in order to stay warm, dry and to be able to fly. Feathers take a beating, you know. In some cases, like the goldfinch, the new feathers will change colors in order to impress a mate. Some birds like the Ptarmigans in Alaska will change colors (to white) to better blend in with their winter surroundings.
Adult male goldfinches are bright yellow with a black forehead, black wings with white markings, and white patches both above and beneath the tail in spring and early summer. Adult females are duller yellow beneath, olive above. Winter birds are a drab, un-streaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wing bars.
The tiny finches are able to cling to willowy thistle bushes and stalks and peck away at the small thistle seeds.
The Audubon Society says that the goldfinch’s main natural habitats are weedy fields and floodplains, where plants such as thistles and asters are common. They’re also found in cultivated areas, roadsides, orchards, and backyards. American Goldfinches can be found at feeders any time of year, but most abundantly during winter. My finches enjoy the thistle feeder, but are especially fond of the feeder with sunflower hearts
The gold finches are friendly little birds and in a few more weeks will be a brilliant yellow and adorn my yard with their remarkable beauty.