Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another FOS

First of Season birds are fun to find and important to birders and scientists who follow migration information and data. As a ‘Citizen Scientist’ of sorts, I also find it interesting to track the arrival dates of my backyard birds.

Late yesterday afternoon, I came home to find a couple of the season’s first Lesser Goldfinch feeding with the hundreds of Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch I have in my yard. I just love these stunning birds; the ones here have the dark, black backs associated with the Eastern variety of the species. Supposedly, the ‘green-backed’ Lesser Goldfinch are the more Western variety, though it is noted ‘black-backs’ occasionally are found further west.

This first photo is one I took last year on June 1st, the first time I'd seen them. They seem to be a month earlier this year...but then I was so new then; perhaps I just never noticed them.

I think for awhile, I thought these tiny finches were displaying the difference in male and female Lesser Goldfinch; it took awhile to realize there are two varieties.

Males of both varieties are, as usual, more colorful; brilliant yellow below, with dark wings which are white at the base of the primaries. As the name suggests, green-backed Lesser Goldfinch are a dusky-green above; along the neck and the entire back is greenish…only the top, front of the head to the bill (not unlike an American Goldfinch) is black. The black-backed Lesser Goldfinch is black from the bill all the way to the tail; the entire upper body is dark…stunning against the pure, bright yellow of the lower half. These are our tiniest finch; only 4 ½ inches long and about 9.5 g…making them noticeably smaller than the Am.Goldfinch which is closer to 13 grams. You might also notice that this little goldfinch has a proportionally larger bill than do others.

Here are a couple shots of an American you can see how much more yellow they are:

You can find a couple more (poor) photos I took of Lesser Goldfinch here, and pages of photos of them on Google, here.

Except where noted, photos from Wikipedia


Bosque Bill said...

Interesting. Lessers are around here most of the year, though their numbers fluctuate with the season. I get American Goldfinches only in winter and migration. They are getting very yellow and will disappear any day now.

I found an interesting display of data on the eBird site for seasonal arrivals and departures. Go to then click on "arrivals and departures" then follow the prompts to input the area you are interested in checking. It will then present you a list with the first sightings of species. I was tickled when I looked at my county and discovered I was on the list twice! Once for American Avocet and once for Black-headed Grosbeak. Very cool. Check out your area.

Jeb said...

@Bosque Bill Thanks for that site, new to me!

*I Donated to Cornell Ornithology!*

Dale Forbes said...

I love the image of the lesser goldfinch at the birdbath.

your goldfinches look sooo different to the european goldfinch that we get here. nice to meet new friends ;-)

Happy birding