I've gotten a little rush of bird identification questions lately, and most have pertained to one particular species. Every spring the American goldfinches transform from their winter plumage to their breeding plumage right before our eyes. While the adult males in the breeding season are pretty unmistakable, the winter plumage and transition plumages sometimes confuse feeder observers.
Below is a series of photos showing the gradual plumage changes:
|American Goldfinch (right) by Taylor Piephoff|
By this time of year, the males are starting to acquire the bright yellow plumage that most people are accustomed to seeing. Note the patchy yellow coming in among the patches of gray winter plumage, and the aquisition of the black cap.
|American Goldfinch Male by Bruce Naliboff|
The females show this transition too. This bird is starting to show the yellow coming in, but it is not as bright, since this is a duller female bird.
|Female American Goldfinch by Peg Bania|
In a few weeks the transformation is complete. The adult males have assumed their strikingly brilliant summer suits.
|Adult Male American Goldfinch by John Ennis|
You may continue seeing the goldfinches at your feeders throughout the summer. Here is a mix of adult males and adult females. The females will be a yellow-green when nesting but will be more gray in the winter. Both males and females have the black wings with prominent bars or stripes throughout the year.
|Male and Female American Goldfinches by Cathy Miller|