Winter Resident Birds you may like to see at SFNC – NOW by looking closely and listening well.
Bob Hartmann, SFNC Docent
There is a good chance that you may catch sight and/or sound of these three look-alike ‘goldys’. They are small and some are about ready to spruce up in their spring plumage. The season is unduly early and food supply is responding too! That means treetop buds, booth flower and leaf, are becoming prime food for ‘picking’ particularly in red maple and winged elm.
Goldfinch this time of the year travel in social ‘flights’, groups of a dozen or more and they may ‘chirp’ together while feeding or on the fly. Both males and females look very similar now during the winter months; their paired white wing bars make them easier to recognize. Males become fully ‘decked-out’ in bright yellow and black as the breeding/nesting season starts.
Current Goldfinch groups frequently have a few ‘tag-along’ closely related Pine Siskins. They similarly have two wing bars but theirs are distinctly yellowish rather than all white. Backs and breasts have bold streaked in various tones of brown. Males have a distinct yellowish wash during the breeding season and they communicate with a shallow ‘zzzip’ rather than a Goldfinch-like “chip”. They too may travel in ‘flights’ and generally have a preference for areas with pine trees.
The other yellow bird at SFNC is the Golden-crowned Kinglet. It is noticeably smaller than either the Goldfinch or Pine Siskin. There is a single bold, white wing bar, gray body with a very lite yellow overtone, a dark gray bar through the eye and around the crown centered with a yellow to ‘orangish’ bar. Therefore – the Crown. Preferred habitats and foods are much different to that of the other two birds. This bird’s movements are quick, short and frequent among the rocks, bluffs, underbrush and understory of lakeside trees, above the panicle’s northwest shoreline. Preferred food appears to be ‘motes’ – items far too small for the human eye to see even with binoculars. Just before a foraging bird takes off there is an almost inaudible, truncated chirp.
Spend an hour or so some pleasant morning or mid-afternoon at SFNC on a quiet day to find and experience each of these “Yellow Birds”! I am confident you will hear, see and enjoy these birds as well as other SFNC resident and visiting wildlife.