Michael John Balog | The Great American Goldfinch

The Great American Goldfinch

August 05, 2017

     The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is aptly named, because these ubiquitous little finches can be seen across the United States.  They are smaller than a sparrow, yet at certain times of the year they are difficult to miss.  The breeding males are a bright yellow with black cap and black & white wing markings; their beaks turn a bright orange during nesting season.  The females also brighten-up considerably during the warmer months and become a beautiful golden color.  They nest in the Wind River Canyon and also spend the winters here.  The American Goldfinch was first described in 1758 in the 10th edition of a book titled Systema Naturae by Linnaeus.  

     The American Goldfinch is the only finch in the subfamily to completely molt, which is why I have such a hard time differentiating them from other finches in the Wind River Canyon winter months.  They are one of the strictest vegetarians of the bird world according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  These small, yellow finches are granivorous; they prefer to eat seeds, like that skinny girl up the street.  There are four subspecies in America.  If you want to bring in the American Goldfinch into your yard, they prefer Niger seeds; commonly and wrongly called thistle seed.

     I ran into an interesting fact while doing some final research into the life of these little finches: Cowbirds are known to lay their eggs in other species nests, devastating the life of the other bird's young.  Yet Cowbirds cannot successfully grow up in an American Goldfinch's nest; it's thought that the seed-based diet is not nutritious enough! American Goldfinch in WyomingAmerican Goldfinch in the Wind River CanyonAn American Goldfinch eating seeds from a flower in the Wind River Canyon in Wyoming.      Yellow is the most difficult color to photograph in the sunshine.  It will overwhelm a digital sensor quite easily, which is only now why I finally have a good photograph of an American Goldfinch.  Sure, I would photograph, or try, every summer in the canyon; I never liked the results enough to put one on my Wind River Canyon website Hogbats Photography.  

     Just the other day, I was having coffee under the juniper when guess who appeared?  As I've written repeatedly in this Wind River Canyon Blog----"Keep your camera ready!"  Mother Nature will always be willing to give you something interesting, so be ready.  The above image was shot with manual settings, to get the yellow correctly exposed:  Settings were 1/800 @ f/10, ISO 400, shot with my favorite 70-200mm L f/4 Canon lens.  

     Basically, I just sat on my homemade bench and shot away till I finally got it right.  Which is a good lesson in persistence, as I've been trying to get a good picture of the great American Goldfinch for (I'm embarrassed to say) a decade and a half!  I have other pictures of him up-side-down wrestling seeds from the flowers from this shoot, but I needed an identifying photo, not one that was cute or funny.  They will probably end up on my Twitter feed @Hogbats.

     Hope you learned a little something from this week's Wind River Canyon blog.  Now, get out of the house and go visit Mother Nature!  It's been proven by science and technology to lessen the stress of 21st century science and technology.

     All the written words and photographs in my blogs are protected by U.S. copyright laws and all rights are reserved, but that doesn't amount to a hill of Buffalo muffins, so spread the word!

     Thank you once again for taking the time to read about wildlife in the Wind River Canyon in the state Wyoming.  

Michael John Balog-Wind River Canyon-Wyoming