The avian gold standard

NOT MY BEST-EVER Goldfinch photos, but worth sharing. These migratory songbirds are such a delight when they arrive in crowds, brightening the scene in early May. Another treat will come in June or so when new fledglings appear at the feeder: miniature, brightly feathered, not quite yet knowing where their feet are — a bit like human newborns. But could you fly at the age of 11 days?

Peek-a-who? That’s a Purple Finch, no slouch in its showy crimson feathers, peering around the corner of the Nuthatch Cabin’s well-used feeder. But a recently arrived American Goldfinch steals the show in its splendid lemony plumage.

Like the cousins who come in May, and stay and stay, the goldfinches have arrived

Working both sides of the feeder: A Purple Finch peeks around the corner as an American Goldfinch munches a seed.

MY FAVORITE SUMMER VISITOR showed up on Center Island last week. The American Goldfinch, our Washington state bird, is now mobbing my feeder.

Interesting goldfinch trivia from my neighbor, the Mad Birder: Goldfinches are one of the few land birds that migrate by daylight. Most fly cross-country at night, free of pesky daytime thermals — those sometimes wicked up-and-down bursts that prompt airline pilots to tell you it’s not a good time to toddle to the toilet. In darkness, birds also find it easier to elude predatory hawks and eagles.

To an eagle, the Mad Birder’s theory goes, the half-ounce bit of feathery lemon zest that is a goldfinch is dietarily akin to celery: You burn more calories in the chewing than you actually gain. “Oh, there goes one of those flashy little yellow guys. Not worth my time!”

But the goldfinches add so much color to the view out my front window, I’m happy to fatten them up on as many sunflower seeds as they can chomp. Welcome back, Washington’s trademark ball of fluff.

Ooooh, scary goldfinch face! It seems they don’t always want company at mealtime.
“Hey, there’s plenty for everybody, bud! Are we good now? Huh? Huh?”