The Suitcase Lady


February 21, 2012, 9:12 pm

I am not attracted to guys in canary yellow suits, but some ladies swoon over them. These ladies would be American goldfinches.

I must admit that the entire goldfinch clan had me tricked for many years. Every summer I enjoyed watching these petite birds which resemble flying bursts of sunshine. Every winter when they “disappeared” I assumed they were languishing in the tropics, soaking in the rays.

Then, one winter day, I was watching the action in our feeders and spotted a drab-feathered bird that bore a striking resemblance to a goldfinch but with his technicolor removed. A quick trip to the bird book confirmed that some goldfinches stay year round while others only move far enough to find food. The guys’ breeding plumage just molts and sober colored feathers are worn for winter when their sex lives grind to a complete halt. Seems like I was the birdbrain.

Last week I saw a goldfinch land on one of our feeders, and he was starting to ripen. His yellow wasn’t glowing yet, but he was already a delicate shade of pale yellow.

“There’s hope for spring,” I said to my husband as I pointed out our sexy, little visitor.

In fairness to male goldfinches, I should add that they are not all about show. They are loyal mates who keep watch over their ladies for the six days the females work in midsummer to build their cup shaped nests. Then they feed the future moms for the two weeks that the ladies incubate the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the dads work tirelessly to help feed their offspring. All in all, stand up guys.

Click here to hear their vocalizing and dream of spring.

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