American Goldfinch in drab winter dress.
Goldfinches, of course, are the iconic winter bird for bird-lovers here who put out food in winter. During the coldest parts of winter, hordes of the little birds can descend on a bird feeder and empty it in a few hours.
They are fond of thistle (or nyger) seed and that is the food that is most advertised for finches, but, in my yard, I find that they are just as fond of the black oil sunflower seed and that they take both kinds of seeds in just about equal measure. Typically though, they do not start visiting my feeders until a little later. They tend to exhaust the wild food supply before they start depending on the feeders.
One of their favorite wild foods in Southeast Texas is the seed of the crape myrtle. That's a crape myrtle tree in which the goldfinch in the picture above is sitting. Flocks of the little birds will sit in the crape myrtle trees all day long picking out the tiny seeds and trilling their winter songs.That's a fun event for backyard birders to observe. Those who make the mistake of pruning their crape myrtle trees or shrubs before the seeds have a chance to mature miss out on this spectacle.
In some years, goldfinches are accompanied in their migration to our area by the slightly smaller and much more argumentative finches, the Pine Siskins. These feisty little birds always create a lot of commotion and excitement at the feeders. They have often been present in my yard in recent winters.
Pine Siskin shelling a seed at the feeder.
It'll be interesting see whether the Pine Siskins turn up again this year, but one thing is certain: There will be goldfinches!