Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
March  2017                                                                                              Volume 3.17
Nature News

High Desert Bird of the Month
Lesser Goldfinch

  Goldfinch Jacque Lowery
BOM:  Lesser Goldfinch
Scientific name: Spinus psaltria 

How To Identify: Lesser Goldfinches are tiny, stub-billed songbirds with long, pointed wings, and short, notched tails.  Males are bright yellow below with a glossy black cap and white patches in the wings; their backs can be glossy black or dull green (particularly on the West Coast). They have a black tail with large, white corners. Females and immatures have olive backs, dull yellow underparts, and black wings marked by two whitish wingbars.
Habitat:  Lesser Goldfinches feed in weedy fields, budding treetops, and the brush of open areas and edges. Depending on food availability, they may concentrate in mountain canyons and desert oases, but they are also fairly common in suburbs.
Where to find one: The Lesser Goldfinch makes its home in patchy open habitats of many kinds. From the western U.S. to South America, this songbird frequents thickets, weedy fields, woodlands, forest clearings, scrublands, farmlands, and even desert oases. You can also find them in parks and gardens in both suburban and urban settings. Some common habitats in the western U.S. include oak, pinyon-juniper, cottonwood, willow, cedar, and pine woodlands, as well as chaparral.
How to attract one to your yard:  Lesser Goldfinches readily come to feeders along with other finches such as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. These small finches eat many kinds of seeds from the sunflower family, including the thin-hulled seeds of nyjer thistle.
Interesting fact:  Where their ranges overlap in California, the Lesser Goldfinch-though smaller-dominates the Lawrence's Goldfinch. The Lesser Goldfinch eats first at feeding stations and chases Lawrence's Goldfinches away from nesting sites.
For more information on Lesser Goldfinch, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations:  1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks. 
Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks
Fun Facts About the Lesser Goldfinch

Like their cousin the American Goldfinch, Lesser Goldfinches will delay breeding until the greatest number of thistle, dandelion and other composite flowers are seeding.

The Lesser Goldfinch is believed to be monogamous with its mate during the breeding season and will bring food to the nest for her while she incubates their eggs.

Some known predators of the Lesser Goldfinch include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Kestrel, Northern Pygmy-Owl, and Loggerhead Shrike.

The oldest banded Lesser Goldfinch recaptured in the wild had lived 5 years and 8 months.

Due to their almost exclusive diet of seeds, the Lesser Goldfinch drinks frequently and will stay close to reliable sources of water during dry periods.

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Goldfinch Feeding Tips

Unlike most other birds that come to our feeders, Goldfinches eat seeds almost exclusively. In fact unlike many other Finches, Goldfinch chicks are fed few, if any, insects. Instead they get the same seeds their parents eat. When a parent returns to feed its young, its crop is full of partially digested seed, enough to feed the whole brood. Because of the amount of food brought each time, the young are only fed twice each hour. Perched at and around the feeders, Goldfinches eat seed after seed. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to watch them at length. Many people complain "Finches" don't eat the seed at the bottom of their feeders. This is because it keeps getting packed down and draws moisture to it.  Always remember to dump out and mix old seed in the bottom of the feeder with new seed, and then refill the feeder.   

Also, one of the keys to keeping Goldfinches around is eliminating their need to compete.  Goldfinches will often just give up and fly away when other species crowd around a feeder. To enjoy finches when they are bright gold, many people put out "extra" finch feeders utilizing inexpensive thistle sacks.  Along with extra feeders you can also stock your garden full of flowers sure to keep them coming back.  Dandelions, Marigolds, Zinnias, Cosmos, or Coneflowers are all great food sources for Goldfinches.  

Upcoming Events
Lahontan Audubon Society

Saturday, March 11
 Field Trip - Winter Waterfowl Tour, Stillwater NWR
Tuesday, March 21
 Birds & Books Reading Group
Sunday, March 26
 Ornithology: how it is done, what we know and how you can join
Tuesday, March 28
 Brood parasitism: a co-evolutionary arms race, by Priya Balasubramaniam - Program Meeting

Nature Happenings
* Project FeederWatch continues, www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw

* Sandhill Cranes can be seen returning from the south.

* Check bird houses for damage and clean them before spring birds arrive.

* Male flickers can be heard as they drum trying to attract a mate.

* Bears emerge from hibernation this month.

* Red-tailed Hawks pair up for breeding.

* March is our highest precipitation month of the year.

* Peak of Bald Eagle migration.

* Great Horned Owls are sitting on their eggs.

* Red-winged Blackbirds, Killdeer and Great Blue Herons return.

Feed Our Local Birds!
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Moana Nursery | 1100 W. Moana Lane | 11301 S. Virginia St. | 7655 Pyramid Hwy. | Reno/Sparks | NV | 89509