This spunky little finch is the smallest member of the North American genus Carduelis. I caught this male pictured above harassing a female Ruby-crowned Kinglet as she was bathing in the water feature.
Unlike the more common American Goldfinch, the Lesser Goldfinch’s (Spinus psaltria) plumage does not change color during breeding season. The male (seen below) has a black cap and, in Washington, Oregon, California, and Baja California, nearly all males have green backs. Eastward, frequency of individuals with black on auriculars, neck, and back increases; southward into Mexico, nearly all adult males have completely black upperparts1. Click on photos for full sized images.
The female Lesser Goldfinch can sometimes be confused with the female American Goldfinch in breeding plumage. This is the female Lesser Goldfinch…
and these are American Goldfinches in breeding plumage.
The orange beak on the female American Goldfinch and its white undertail coverts distinguish it from the female Lesser Goldfinch below, which has yellow undertail coverts and a darker beak.
Both of these species show gregarious flocking behavior except when nesting. I was lucky enough a few years ago to spot a Lesser Goldfinch building a nest in a nearby tree while checking my Bluebird boxes.
It was great fun watching them raise their young that summer. They always bring their youngsters to the feeders where, along with American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins, they not only make short order of sunflower and nyjer seed, they like to feed on sunflowers in the garden as well. You can hear the intricate call of the Lesser Goldfinch here.
Larry Jordan was introduced to birding after moving to northern California where he was overwhelmed by the local wildlife, forcing him to buy his first field guide just to be able to identify all the species visiting his yard. Building birdhouses and putting up feeders brought the avian fauna even closer and he was hooked. Larry wanted to share his passion for birds and conservation and hatched The Birder's Report in September of 2007. His recent focus is on bringing the Western Burrowing Owl back to life in California where he also monitors several bluebird trails. He is a BirdLife Species Champion and contributes to several other conservation efforts, being the webmaster for Wintu Audubon Society and the habitat manager for the Burrowing Owl Conservation Network. He is now co-founder of a movement to create a new revenue stream for our National Wildlife Refuges with a Wildlife Conservation Stamp.
Donna's 2014 Year List - 547
Redgannet's 2014 Year List - 520
Carlos's 2014 Year List - 346
Corey's 2014 Year List - 302
Jochen's 2014 Year List - 301
Clare M's 2014 Year List - 273
Duncan's 2014 Year List - 174
Carrie's 2014 Year List - 063
Carlos's 2013 Year List - 1587
Jochen's 2013 Year List - 553
Corey's 2013 Year List - 511
Donna's 2013 Year List - 438
Duncan's 2013 Year List - 430
Clare M's 2013 Year List - 368
Redgannet's 2013 Year List - 212
Larry's 2013 Year List - 206
Redgannet's 2012 Year List - 660
Jochen's 2012 Year List - 542
Corey's 2012 Year List - 525
Felonious Jive's 2012 Year List - 404
Duncan's 2012 Year List - 402
Clare M's 2012 Year List - 300
Clare K's 2012 Year List - 040
Greg's 2012 Year List - 004