For the Birds: Goldfinches return to full regalia

I’m taking a one-day break from my photo series so I can share my latest bird column, which runs in several New England newspapers. …

Photo by Chris Bosak An American goldfinch perches on a wire in New England, March 2020.

I alluded in last week’s column to a goldfinch being in transitional plumage.

The truth is, in a way, American goldfinches are always in transitional plumage. Unlike most songbirds that look pretty much the same year-round, goldfinches look dramatically different in their breeding and non-breeding plumage. All birds molt (replace) their feathers at least once a year, usually at the end of summer. Most songbirds, whether the molt is done gradually or all at once, look the same at both ends of the molt.

Male American goldfinches are a brilliant yellow in their breeding (summer) plumage. They are a beloved bird and they adorn calendars, magazine covers, bookmarks and conservation promotional materials. It is this brilliant yellow-and-black plumage that makes them desirable fodder as bird models.

However, you rarely see goldfinches in their non-breeding (winter) plumage on magazine covers. The non-breeding plumage is Continue reading