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The Flying Lemon

American Goldfinch

Spinus tristis

If you have my 2021 “Talk Birdie to Me” calendar, meet your October bird!

This may very well be North America’s sweetheart bird. Meet the official state bird of Iowa, Washington and New Jersey. American Goldfinches (AMGO) are fairly easy to identify in the summer… look for a flying lemon calling obsessively about thin slices of potatoes (I’ll explain this later). Their overall canary yellow plumage and partial range, sets them apart from the Lesser and Lawrence goldfinches. AMGOs are one of the last birds to breed in the summer, as they wait on milkweed and thistle to seed. They use the fluffy down from the seed pods to build their nest. They are the only bird in the finch family that molts twice a year so be on the lookout as they have already started molting into their winter plumage. Males will morph from bright yellow to drab olive-brown (appearing similar to females). If you’re unsure about making a positive ID, just listen for their distinctive flight call, “po-ta-to-chip, po-ta-to-chip” and you can’t go wrong.

American Goldfinches are irregular in migration. Right now, some of them are slowly migrating south while others will be year-round residents in areas where temps don’t go below 0ºF on average. If you need a burst of sunshine in your life or (now thats it’s getting colder) a more “cuffing season” calmer tone, you can attract these social sweethearts to your yard with Nyjer (thistle) seed and black oil sunflower seed. 🍋 🥔 🐤♥️

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