Tiny Finch

Lesser Goldfinch male (Spinus psaltria)

This bird was so small that from a distance against the sun I thought it was a hummingbird. I often see an Anna’s Hummingbird on the edge of this meadow on the south side of the Native Plant Area, and I thought, maybe it has a friend. But on coming closer in better light, obviously this one was something else. It’s a Lesser Goldfinch, considered the smallest of the true finches. It weighs an average of about 9 grams. The House Finch, for comparison, not a big bird, weighs an average of 21 grams. Anna’s weigh an average of about 5 grams.

The first individual in the video is a male. He tweeted the occasional chip and short whistle, but stopped far short of the complex melodies of which he’s capable. That may be because he’s already achieved the goal of all that tweeting — the consent of a female. A female appeared on a neighboring branch not long after the male. The tweeting in that segment of the video, however, comes from a House Finch starting up on a branch higher up in the same tree.

When the goldfinches do nest, it’s the female that does the construction. She may choose a spot up in a tree or low in a bush or even in vegetation on the ground.

This pair seemed to be by themselves, which is a bit unusual for the species; they’re very social and travel in flocks. I’ve seen them here before, always in small numbers like this, never in feathered mobs like the House Finch. They may be too small to establish themselves here in numbers. I’ve seen regular flocks of them in the nearby Berkeley Meadow, but not here. White-crowned and also Golden-crowned Sparrows, which are about the same size as the House Finches, seem to have no trouble feeding and thriving in our park by the dozens.

Lesser Goldfinch male (Spinus psaltria)

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