Splash of Gold

goldenrod

It’s been pretty gray & gloomy here this week, but the dark weather was made nicer by some bright colors. Some goldfinches flew in  from somewhere (where?) to feed on/perch in the blooming bundles of goldenrod. I don’t have a finch feeder, so I don’t see these bright little birds often, but it’s a nice treat when they come around. The male goldfinches are a vibrant yellow with black bars on their wings, but the females are a greenish-gray, and can be hard to pick out when they’re in a crowd with sparrows, juncos, & chickadees. They like to eat thistle/nyjer seed, like most finches. Goldfinches are more common further south, but they show up now & then to add some color to the brown/gray residents that live here all year.

‘Exotic’ Birds

I was out of town for a few days (still in MN though), & I got the chance to view some neat birds I had never seen before. I saw a red-bellied woodpecker, which don’t usually come to my yard (usually I only see downy woodpeckers, & once in a blue moon pileateds). They are quite a bit bigger than some other woodpeckers, & interesting to watch. There were also Juncos, chickadees, blue jays, & cardinals. There was one species that I wasn’t quite sure about, they were kind of greenish-yellow, with white & black on their wings. At first I thought they might be a greenfinches, but it turns out that they live nowhere near here. I think now that they were female goldfinches, but I’m still not sure about that. If anyone has a better idea please let me know!

The mystery finch.

Goldfinches

Yesterday I saw an American Goldfinch in my neighborhood. I hadn’t thought that they lived here, but I guess they do. I’ve never seen one in my yard, but I do not think I have the kind of food they like. I’m pretty sure they like Nyjer Seed. They like to eat from a tube feeder, like chickadees. The male goldfinch is bright yellow with some black, & the female is sort of a yellowish, speckled brown. They live in nearly all of North America except some parts of Mexico & northern Canada.

Spring flocks

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mississippi river near my home (it’s just a couple of streets away), I saw two huge black birds flying overhead. They turned out to be a pair of turkey vultures, & they were wheeling & swooping over the river, close enough that I could see their bright red naked heads & black feathers. Evidently there was an appetizing bit of rotting flesh down there. Vultures have naked heads because it keeps them clean when they feed. If they had feathers on their heads the feathers would get very dirty when they fed, & possibly make them sick. These birds have, lately, become common around here. Turkey vultures must get something from the river they can’t get elsewhere; whenever I see them, they are heading to the Mississippi.

A few days ago I looked out my window & there was a Common Grackle at the feeder. These shiny black birds are hard to miss, they are at least twice as large as other common feeder residents, such as finches & chickadees. They will eat sunflower seeds, but they seem to scare the other birds away. When a grackle’s in my yard, it’s the only bird there. Brown-headed cowbirds seem to be getting more numerous too. I don’t see them that often, but every few years there’ll be a spring where they’re all over. What’s interesting is that when that happens, common grackles start to appear more too.

The house finch that was at my feeder a few days ago has come back, & he brought his girlfriend with him. I see them almost every day now. The female isn’t terribly colorful, & I often mistake her for a sparrow, as she has no red, but the pattern of stripes on her back is different, & she’s almost never without her mate. I also recently saw an American Goldfinch. I have never seen one in MN before, although they’re supposed to live all over America. They are tiny but beautiful birds, with their neon yellow feathers & black markings. The one I saw was such a bright color, I could barely see it in all the yellow-green leaves of the just-blooming trees.