Thursday, September 26, 2013

American Goldfinch and Black-headed Siskin

John Holden and I birded near the visitor center at Faribault's River Bend Nature Center on 25 September 2013. The morning was cloudless and 60 degrees F. A flock of American Goldfinches fed at a feeder and perched on the brick building. Other goldfinches flew up, some landing on the bricks; others appeared to try to displace the perched bird. 

This behavior seemed curious, since plenty of small trees and shrubbery stood nearby. The goldfinch does not appear to be in peak health—its eyes are partially closed and its plumage appears worn and fluffed out.  On the other hand, possibly this bird and the others were sunning, a feather-maintance behavior that I have described in a recent post about robins. When this bird finally flew, its flight appeared to be normal.

Years ago, as a teenager in Chiapas, Mexico, I witnessed similar perching behavior with a Black-headed Siskin. I searched my photo files, and found the fuzzy picture below. These siskins are in the same genus as goldfinches, and are common in Mexico south to Guatemala. I wonder if both the siskin and the goldfinch used the warm bricks to rid their feathers of various parasites.

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