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

Busy day at the feeder (in photos)

Photo by Chris Bosak A tufted titmouse looks into a cup for peanuts in New England, February 2020.

For a cold February day, it’s been a pretty good day at the feeder. In all, 14 species showed up already and it’s not even noon. The pileated woodpecker was in the side yard, not at the feeders. I took the photo through a dirty, hence the poor quality. Here’s some photographic evidence of the busy day: Continue reading

Can you spot the difference?

Photo by Chris Bosak American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
American Goldfinches eat from a feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Pine Siskins and American Goldfinches share a Nyjer feeder at Cove Island Park in Stamford, March 2015.

What’s the difference between these two photos?

It’s not one of those find 10 subtle differences puzzles, but rather a pretty simple quiz and lesson in paying attention closely to your feeders. These photos were taken about 10 minutes apart the other day at Cove Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Stamford, Conn.

The top photo, taken first, shows all American Goldfinches on a feeder offering Nyjer seeds. At first glance the next photo appears to show a bunch of American Goldfinches, too. But there’s more to that seco Continue reading