October: Rich’s Backyard Birds

By Rich Crete

Hey Bird Guy! I just moved here last summer from Buffalo. Where are the Goldfinches? I miss them. -B.F. of Bloomingdale

Holy smokes, B.F. You moved here from Buffalo? I’m guessing there have been a few subtle changes in more than just the birds. Like for example, I’ll bet you didn’t used to shop for your Christmas tree while wearing shorts.

Golfinches are winter only birds here so we rarely see them in all their bright yellow glory. They are in their winter plumage when they arrive here (usually in Oct/Nov) and they display a much more subdued buffy brown color with black wings, as you can see in the photos. They will stay that way until March or April. As soon as they start becoming bright yellow again, they head back north to begin breeding.

As in Buffalo, Goldfinches really like sunflower seeds, especially the already hulled sunflower chips. They also like nyjer seed, which is also known as thistle. If you want a feeder out that is only for the Goldfinches, nyjer is the way to go since there are not any other feeder birds around that will typically eat nyjer. A nyjer feeder has super small holes to accommodate the super small seeds. The wind will blow the tiny nyjer seeds out of any feeder not specifically designed for them.

Goldfinches are really fascinating birds. Not only do they have radically differing plumages for different seasons, some Goldfinches migrate while some do not. Since they don’t breed this far south, all ours are indeed “snow birds”…and here you thought that term was only for retirees.

Goldfinches fluctuate in numbers each winter. It’s very hard to predict from year to year. To add to their inconsistent nature, it is also hard to predict if they will be eating more nyjer or sunflower chips when they are here. I suggest putting out both and letting them tell you which they prefer that week. Sometimes they will seem to eat mostly sunflower chips all winter, and then right before spring migration starts, they switch to nyjer.

I know. It was lots easier to get them in your yard in Buffalo. Hopefully having flip flops considered year round business casual makes up for it.