The American Goldfinch’s name Carduelis Tristis means “sad thistle seed eater”. There’s nothing sad about this bird. With their lively yellow color and delightful songs, the American Goldfinch can brighten up even the gloomiest of days.
A small finch with a cone-shaped bill, a small head, and long wings, the American Goldfinch is known to be spunky and acrobatic in behavior. The American goldfinch is often referred to as the Wild Canary, for its equally elated songs and bright yellow hue. These birds continue to learn new song patterns throughout their entire life, often complex with long series of warbles and tweets lasting several seconds long. The even sing while flying, as the wave-shape pattern of their flight effects how they vocalize during the flapping phase and then silent while coasting.
The female will often call to her mate while nesting with a soft continuous “tee” repetition. Once the young have hatched, they will use the same call “chick-kee” for their entire stay in the nest. Prepared for protection, the goldfinch has two defense calls made during nesting: one to rally other goldfinches to return to the nest and distract predators; the other used to notify the nestlings to be silent and crouch until the potential danger has passed.
The American Goldfinch is the only finch in its family to completely molt their feathers. This process happens twice a year, once spring and again in autumn. Exhibiting moderate sexual dimorphism, males appear bright yellow with black markings, while females are olive with dull yellow trim. In late fall the male goldfinch begins his transformation to a more dusty olive, “cinnamon brown” with a white lower belly and more boldly patterned wings. The females maintain a duller olive shade throughout the entire year, with yellow under parts and head that brightens slightly during summer. However, during the winter, both sexes appear brown with faint wing bars.
In Native American Culture, if a goldfinch flies across your path, it Is a reminder to enjoy life and savor each moment for the joy that is in it. That each moment you waste on sending forth negative emotions such as fear, hatred and anger are moments that are forever lost. Find joy in the now like this exuberant, stunning bird.
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