Return of the “Gold”finches….almost — by Jan

American Goldfinch males are starting to look at bit like clowns!

Splotches of black feathers on the head…a bright yellow feather here and there among the tan.   Did they lose at paintball?

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt (c) Jan Runyan

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt (c) Jan Runyan

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt

Am Goldfinch male showing spring molt (c) Jan Runyan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am Goldfinch female

Am Goldfinch female (c) Jan Runyan

 

 

 

 

 

After last summer’s breeding, all Goldfinches gradually lost and replaced all their feathers. The new male feathers were not the bright “gold” of breeding season, but a more “understated” look similar to females– “basic plumage” in human words.

Am Goldfinch male during spring molt...pin feathers circled

Am Goldfinch male during spring molt…pin feathers circled (c) Jan Runyan

Now, in response to complex hormonal changes triggered by seasonal changes, one-by-one the body feathers (not tail or flight feathers) are being replaced. So going through these gradual changes, the males have some pretty strange looks before all of their breeding “gold” returns. (See photo with tiny “pin feathers” just beginning to grow.)

 

In the past 3 days we have banded 40+ Goldfinches…none in their full breeding plumage. It won’t be too long, though, until our Goldfinches are back in all their gilded glory.  This is just the beginning!

3 Am Goldfinches in breeding plumage

3 Am Goldfinches in breeding plumage (c) Bill Beatty

Am Goldfinch in breeding plumage

Am Goldfinch in breeding plumage (c) Bill Beatty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to see month by month pictures of the male Goldfinch’s year, check out:

http://www.sibleyguides.com/2012/05/the-annual-plumage-cycle-of-a-male-american-goldfinch/