13 October, 2009

Fall Birds Coming and Going

A few weeks a go I mentioned that I had cleared away some of the coneflowers.  I left most of them because the birds love the seeds.  This is what a coneflower seed head looks like after a Goldfinch has been at it.

American Goldfinches aren't too picky about what they will eat.  They eat  fromthe feeder that I fill with mixed seed and at the one with thistle (Nyger) seeds.  Here we see a goldfinch sharing the perch of the mixed seed feeder with a nuthatch.  

Their companionability didn't last too long, though ...
The goldfinches are the major customers at the thistle seed feeder.  They will be flying south for winter soon; we'll see them again in spring and all during next summer as they breed and raise their young.

The feeder above doesn't get quite as much business as MidMarsh John's feeder gets from his goldfinches (click here).  American goldfinches are a little smaller than the English ones and are also less colorful, especially in their winter wardrobe.  Here are a couple of pictures showing very toned-down gold.  But just wait until spring when they start to court and spark.

How many birds can you see below? 

There are at least four; 3 goldfinches and one female slate-colored Junco.  For brief periods in autumn and spring, these species overlap here in Minnesota as the goldfinches mass to migrate south and the juncos arrive to spend winter here.  We are not too far from the northern limit of the juncos' winter territory.  They breed all across northern Canada and Alaska.  Then they migrate south to Minnesota (and much farther, too) for the warmth; they must have some good insulation!  Below are a closer shot of the female and 2 shots of a male. 

This next bird, the ruby-crowned kinglet, is just passing through on its way to a more reasonable winter climate all across the souther states and into Mexico.  I may even be able to spot some in Belize when we go back in February!

This one is either a female that doesn't have the ruby crown or a male that is hiding his like they sometimes do.  They are both less than 4 inches long.  in this cold snap, they are all puffed up to stay warm.

The purple finches shown below are also just passing through to their winter grounds in the southeastern states.  They don't venture as far south as the kinglets do.  Only the males have the lovely redish head, back, and breast.  This one is probably a juevenile male.

I'll finish with this handsome chipmunk that scavenges seeds spilled from the feeders.  We usually have 4 or 5 of them around.  They gather up the seeds into their check pouches and then go hide them somewhere.  We find clumps of grasses, sunflowers, and other things growing in the oddest places; most recently in our potted plants that had been on the patio before we brought them indoors for winter.


  1. From wonderful bird photos such as yours, I'm getting acquainted with birds from your part of the world! They're so beautiful! Loved the photo of the coneflower seed head and the handsome chipmunk!!

  2. What a great selection again Wilma. I love seeing all the different birds from your side of the water.
    Lovely colour on the Purple Finch, and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet on the end of the feeder hook, is a great pose.

  3. Hi Wilma,
    Wow it looks like you have a "five stars" garden!!! So many birds that you can observe! beautiful... Here birds usually don't come to the feeders, i guess Iceland is another country :-)

  4. First many thanks for the link. The UK Goldfinch is quite a small bird so I am surprised to see yours are even smaller. I wonder if yours are as argumentative though my visitors were calm and collected until the numbers increased.

    Lovely photos of the birds which are passing through. Don't seem to get that much variety here. Not on feeders anyway.

    Great photo of the Chipmunk.

  5. Very much enjoyed seeing all the species you currently have moving through your garden. Lovely portrait of the 'goldie' on the feeder hook. FAB

  6. Kanak - thank you for visiting and leaving a comment! I certainly enjoy your "Terra Farmer" blog.

    Keith - thanks again. The Ruby-crowned kinglet did pose well, didn't it? But I still wonder why the purple finch is called "purple". ;-)

    Chris - the garden songbirds that migrate usually love to take advantage of the feeders while they are passing through. We are pretty close to the Mississippi flyway, so that is probably why we see so many as they migrate.

    John - I just checked in my bird book to be sure about the sizes. The European Goldfinch is listed as being 4.5 inches long and the American Goldfich is a scant quarter inch less at 4.25 inches. Not as much smaller as I had thought, but a little smaller never-the-less. In mid-afternoon when the biggest crowd is at the feeders, they do squabble quite a bit and shove each other off the perches. It gets pretty physical sometimes!

    Frank - I'm glad you liked the goldie on the feeder hook. It is one of my favorite shots too.

  7. Yes, that handsome chipmunk save for last.

  8. Hi Wilma, I am really cross with myself for missing your last two posts with all your beautiful birds. I have just had a lovely time reading through them :)

    What a great variety you see in your garden, I would love to see Nuthatches and Woodpeckers in mine!

    I thought your Goldfinch was much larger than ours! It is noticeable how much your Purple Finch is very much like our Linnet.

  9. Tabib - you figured out my strategy! Glad you approve. :-)

    ShySongbird - I'm so happy you enjoyed them. We do get a great variety. I am still trying to get good photos of the cardinals that will be here all winter too. I just looked up the Linnet and it does look very much like the purple finch.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  10. Seems like there was a very brief time when the feeders were not being used - then they all came back and the seed started disappearing. Seems like you have many of the same birds we have in VT, which makes sense since we are both on the edge of northern woods. I love the birds that stay around for the winter - no wimping out. But I find I am more tempted to do some wimping of my own.

  11. Chris P - Yes, it is a busy time of the year at the feeders. Difficult for me to understand how the year-round birds actually survive the winter. If I had wings, I would be out of here! Oh wait, I do have wings (that I can purchase a ticket for) and I will be out of here for at least 4 trips between now and the end of February. ;-)


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