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It’s a good time to catch a glimpse of a lesser goldfinch

August 20, 2018

Lesser goldfinches are in the Santa Fe area all during nesting season but their population has really exploded lately. Young goldfinches have fledged and activity at thistle feeders is off the charts right now.

If you don’t have a thistle feeder, now is the time to add one to your feeding station. I like the stainless mesh feeders. Because seed is available at the whole feeder, not just at a few feeding ports, more goldfinches at a time can feed. A thistle sock works much the same way but just won’t hold up as long.

If you look carefully you’ll also see lesser goldfinches clinging onto the seed heads of branching sunflowers, purple cone flowers, chocolate flowers, Russian sage, cosmos and so forth, harvesting the mature seeds. They are expert clingers and do just fine hanging on to flower tops even on a windy day. I’ve even seen them clinging onto the tops of tall native grasses harvesting the tiny seeds they provide.

Make sure your thistle (really called nyger) seed is fresh. It’s a high oil content seed that can dry out easily. If you have a thistle feeder out with no customers, it’s time to discard the old seed and try a new batch. It’s easy to attract these yellow beauties this time of year. Many will head a bit south come fall but some area residents keep their lesser goldfinches all year long.

Hummingbird activity continues to be very strong with many reports of calliope hummingbirds moving through. The rufous hummingbirds are still making their bossy presence know. Fresh nectar is key to keeping your hummingbirds happy. Keep feeding hummingbirds well into the fall. It’s not unusual to see a diminishing number of hummingbirds through October. As numbers lessen limit the number of feeders you offer, keeping just one or two full and fresh.

Pinyon jays are beginning to flock — a sure sign that fall is around the corner. These beautiful blue birds love birdseed but their absolute favorite food at feeders is in-shell peanuts.

Watch for other birds to begin to flock as they wrap up nesting and look ahead to Autumn. Whether birds migrate or not, they often form flocks as colder weather and shorter nights approach. Some of our long-distance migrants like orioles and western tanagers are beginning to migrate now. Short distance migrants like lesser goldfinches and some sparrow species won’t flock and begin moving till later in the summer.

Anne Schmauss is the co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Santa Fe and she loves to hear your bird stories. She is the author of For the Birds: A Month by Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard and Birdhouses of the World.

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