One of the most familiar of songbirds, the American Goldfinch, is a late and specialized nester. In late summer, while many of Maine’s breeding birds are fledging this year’s chicks, goldfinches are just getting started. By September, the goldfinch chicks should be out of the nest, still following adults around, while most of their migrating relatives are already moving south. Goldfinches have a late nesting season because, unlike most birds which rely on insects for feeding their young, they rely on flowering of thistles (Cynareae) and almost exclusively feed their chicks seeds. After nesting, goldfinches molt and trade their “gold” for a duller mustard-brown plumage that often leads people to think they are a different species visiting their yard in the winter.
Backyard Bird of the Month is a feature by Maine Audubon created for the Maine Home Garden News, the newsletter of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: Garden and Yard
Photo by Doug Hitchcox