Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Golden Spring

Spring is golden, and so are the most recent visitors to the feeders: a pair of lesser goldfinches. While their spring coloring can be just as vibrant as the more familiar American goldfinch, their markings are a bit more blurred though no less distinctive. The surprise I've found is that they are happy to be guests at the platform feeder as well as the perching finch feeders.

When I blend seed, I typically use one part wild bird mix (the doves prefer most of those seeds), four parts black oil sunflower seeds, and one-half part niger or thistle seed, since the house finches are wildly attracted to the perching tube feeders despite the fact that they are just a shade too large for comfortable perching. Much to my astonishment, the lesser goldfinches have enjoyed probing on the platform feeder to find the niger seed that spills there.

You can see the size difference between the two species quite clearly, though both have voracious appetites and the feeders empty rapidly when they share the honors of dining at the backyard buffet. On the left is a female house finch, precariously balanced, and on the right is a male lesser goldfinch, eagerly enjoying the same treat. While the goldfinches can typically perch for long periods of time and nibble continuously, the house finches tend to perch briefly when they can maintain a few seconds of balance, snatch a bite or two, before fluttering to regain their position. They can be quite territorial and aggressive when feeding at the perches, particularly when larger numbers of birds vie for the same choice tidbits, though having added multiple tube feeders this year seems to have diminished the competition. Perhaps adding niger seed to the hopper mix has also helped foster cooperation between the species and bring everyone peacefully to the table.

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