30 March 2021
Here’s a sure sign of spring: American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are turning yellow.
In winter both male and female goldfinches are dull. The males have citrine yellow faces, whitish chests, and black wings with white stripes. The females are dull olive brown with buffy stripes on brownish wings.
In February goldfinches begin to molt into breeding plumage but they’re in no hurry to finish since they won’t breed until July. At first the males have “dirty” foreheads and a few yellow patches (below). When a male is nearly finished he’ll have a few dull patches among yellow feathers (top).
His goal is brilliant yellow.
Look closely at goldfinches and you’ll see them turning yellow.
(photos by Marcy Cunkleman and from Wikimedia Commons)