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Nature & You: Goldfinches are not always gold

An American goldfinch's feathers are not as vibrant during the winter months. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION]

An American goldfinch's feathers are not as vibrant during the winter months. [PHOTO PROVIDED BY OKLAHOMA DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION]

Goldfinches are not always gold

You, him, her and darn near everybody else asks me the same question over and over again: "Why do the wild canaries leave?"

The birds of which I speak are the goldfinches. Darn near anybody and everybody can easily attract these winsome little jewels to their backyard bird feeding stations. What I am describing is the situation during the winter season.

The cold months of the year see the goldfinches decked out in feathers that are anything but the color of gold. Instead, goldfinches have feathers that are a drab olive green.

Right now, however, we are at the tail end of the winter season. As the spring season gets closer and closer, the goldfinches undergo a brilliantly dazzling color change as they slowly replace the green feathers with those that are an eye-catching lemon yellow color. Unfortunately, this is also the time of year that goldfinches leave our home's backyards and don't return — until year's end.

Where is the fairness in that?

The reason for this bird's change of place all has to do with the onset of the nesting season. These little yellow birds are really picky about where they build their nests and raise their young. Unfortunately, the highly manicured landscape in most people's backyards is much too tame and is not nearly wild enough for the nesting needs of the goldfinches.

That's not to say that the lemon yellow goldfinches are absent from each and every person's backyard, because those who are fortunate enough to live in a more rural setting have the equal fortune of hosting the yellow-colored goldfinches at their home's backyard bird feeding stations.

We should all be so lucky!

— Neil Garrison, NewsOK Contributor

Neil Garrison was the longtime naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center.

Neil Garrison

Neil Garrison is an outdoor nature enthusiast. He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University/Stillwater; he earned a B.S. degree in Wildlife Ecology. Prior to his 2009 retirement, he was the Naturalist at a central Oklahoma nature center for 30... Read more ›

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