Wednesday, January 18, 2006

unusual winter male goldfinch colors

The American goldfinch is one of the more common visitors at my bird feeder. Male American goldfinches are bright lemon yellow with black and white wings and tail and a black forehead patch in the summer. Normally they will molt and look like the much more drab females in winter, with olive gray replacing the yellow. However, I have noticed several males this winter that look abnormally yellow. Two of them even have the black forehead patch, which is usually absent in winter males. I had the opportunity to photograph one of these today, although I apologize for the poor image quality. The camera with 10x optical zoom is currently traveling with The Hermit, so I had to resort to digital zoom, through a somewhat dirty window, in a very unstable position for me. Nevertheless:

The black forehead is clearly visible in this head-on shot.

Blurry, yes, but look at that yellow!

I'm not sure whether there are regional differences in goldfinch coloration in winter, or even if there is a range of normal for winter color. Does anyone else have more information on this? My bird books are fairly old; I must get a copy of Sibley or one of the other latest ones.


Ontario Wanderer said...

I've not seen any goldfinch, at this time of year, as yellow as the ones you photographed. Sibley does say that goldfinches vary in colour geographically but then goes on to talk of adult males being green-backed or black-backed or some variation between during the winter months. Perhaps yours are responding to the warmer winter?

Rexroth's Daughter said...

I haven't seen any goldfinches with this coloring. We have them here all year long, but none are this brightly colored right now.