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From the PorchBy Amber Nagle
From the PorchBy Amber Nagle

We sat in Mom’s sunroom this morning and watched the show of birds coming and going from the perches of her bird feeders. It was like watching planes land and take off at an airport.

“The goldfinches are starting to turn yellow,” I said.

Mom smiled and nodded in agreement.

She must have a dozen American goldfinches in her backyard right now. These small, charming birds, scientifically known as Spinus tristis, are often seen flitting about the Peach State’s meadows, gardens, and backyards, adding splashes of color and song to the southern landscape.

The males are most recognizable by their bright yellow feathers and bold black cap during the breeding season, an attire that they don rather conspicuously amid the Georgia landscapes. Females, though more subdued with their olive-yellow coloration, share the same spirited personality as their male counterparts. Both genders showcase a more muted, brownish-gray plumage outside of the breeding season, a natural adaptation that provides camouflage against the bare branches and woodsy backdrops of the state.

Before I was 25, I had never seen a goldfinch — that was the year my husband and I married and moved into our first home at the edge of a wooded area. I looked at my feeder one morning and saw something bright, canary yellow. I grabbed my bird book and browsed the pages before identifying the bird.

And then I called my mother, and with excitement, I told her what was in our backyard.

Two weeks later, a friend from work — Gus — came over to dig up some wild dogwoods. When we exited the woods, Gus looked up at the feeders hanging above our back deck and stopped in his tracks.

“You aren’t fooling anyone,” he said. “I know that’s a fake bird up there next to your bird feeder.”

And then there was a sudden flash of yellow — like mustard, as the bird flew into the canopies of the trees. Gus’ mouth fell open.

I said, “They’re goldfinches and they are bright yellow this time of year. I had never seen one either until last week.”

“I thought it was fake!” he said. These “wild canaries” are primarily seed eaters, their pointed beaks perfectly adapted for extracting seeds from the heads of thistles, sunflowers, and other plants. They are also frequent visitors to bird feeders, where they gracefully sway on perches, picking at sunflower and other seeds.

In Georgia, the goldfinches are somewhat nomadic, their populations ebbing and flowing with the seasons, as they’re known for their unpredictable migration patterns. Unlike many migratory species, goldfinches breed later in the year, timing their nesting period with the peak abundance of seeds. Their nests, woven artfully and tightly by the females, often cradle eggs well into late summer.

They are birds of simple pleasure, attributed to their sunny disposition and the joy it brings to onlookers — like Mom and me.

We continued to drink our coffee this morning and watch them feast. It never gets old.

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