The Colors of Gold

The Colors of Gold, an essay in images.  Post and photos by Dennis Plank

Dennis has been getting his knees muddy and his back sore pulling Scot’s Broom on the South Sound Prairies since 1998. In 2004, when the volunteers started managing Prairie Appreciation Day, he made the mistake of sending an email asking for “lessons learned” and got elected president of Friends of Puget Prairies-a title he appropriately renamed as “Chief Cat Herder”. He has now turned that over to Gail Trotter. Along the way, he has worked with a large number of very knowledgeable people and picked up a few things about the prairie ecosystem. He loves to photograph birds and flowers.

The Colors of Gold

an essay in images

Goldfinches that is. To be specific, American Goldfinches to differentiate them from the Lesser and Lawrence’s Goldfinches that are also present in North America, though rarely in this area. We have had a Lesser show up once or twice. Goldfinches are an edge species. They get their sustenance from mostly open country plants (well known for liking thistle and, as the seed farm can attest, Balsamroot seeds). However they build their nests in trees and shrubs.

It seemed to me that we were getting more grayish looking female Goldfinches than normal this year, and we also have a partially leucistic male coming to our feeders. That got me to thinking about the variations in plumage I’ve seen in this species over the last 15 years of living with a woman who’s been catering to them for a long time and attracts hordes every summer. I’ve been photographing those birds since at least 2008 and it occurred to me that I probably had a reasonable record of plumage variations. That thought led to the idea for this post.

So here they are in all their glory.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

As a person who likes to think of himself as a gentleman, well give the ladies precedence here.

Female Goldfinch 1

Female Goldfinch 1

 

Female Goldfinch 2

Female Goldfinch 2

 

Female Goldfinch 3

Female Goldfinch 3

 

Female Goldfinch 4-a grayish variation from this year

Female Goldfinch 4-a grayish variation from this year

 

Female Goldfinch 5-another grayish female from this year

Female Goldfinch 5-another grayish female from this year

 

Female Goldfinch 6

Female Goldfinch 6

 

Female Goldfinch 7

Female Goldfinch 7

 

And the Males:

Male Goldfinch 1

Male Goldfinch 1

 

Male Goldfinch 2

Male Goldfinch 2

 

Male Goldfinch 3

Male Goldfinch 3

 

Male Goldfinch 4

Male Goldfinch 4

 

Male Goldfinch 5

Male Goldfinch 5

 

Male Goldfinch 6

Male Goldfinch 6

 

Male Godlfinch molting

Male Goldfinch molting

And my favorite plumages  and to my eye the only really “gold” finches, the juveniles:

Juvenile Goldfinch 1

Juvenile Goldfinch 1

 

Juvenile Goldfinch 2

Juvenile Goldfinch 2

 

Juvenile Goldfinch 3

Juvenile Goldfinch 3

 

Juvenile Goldfinch 4

Juvenile Goldfinch 4

 

To round things out here are some images showing two or more together:

Two Female Goldfinches

Two Female Goldfinches

 

Male and Female Goldfinches-courting behavior

Male and Female Goldfinches-courting behavior

 

Male and Female Goldfinches

Male and Female Goldfinches

 

Adult Male and Juvenile Goldfinches 1

Adult Male and Juvenile Goldfinches 1

 

Adult Male and Juvenile Goldfinches 2

Adult Male and Juvenile Goldfinches 2

The mob at a feeder:

Late Summer mostly Juvenile Goldfinches

Late Summer mostly Juvenile Goldfinches

 

Comments

  1. I am speechless…… especially those photos where the bird is engaged in an activity – my senses are overwhelmed. A fantastic portfolio. It would make a great display, say at PAD 2021. And it also begs the question why – what a great segway to adaptation and genetics.

    Thank you for the very special post. I will be sending it to my niece who has just started “bird watching” and is frustrated with identifications.

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