American Goldfinch

Great horned owls initiated the nesting season in southern Wisconsin in February, and the American goldfinch is ending the region's nesting season late this August.  Almost everyone is familiar with this cheery species - a favorite feeder bird that likes to feed on sunflower chips.

On August 27th, we found a female goldfinch incubating eggs in a nest in a willow sapling about four feet high.  We have been seeing many goldfinches this summer and were not surprised to find a nest in late August.

Goldfinches are late nesters and they like to use thistle down to line their nest.  By nesting late they also avoid parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds.  Another benefit of nesting late is that newly-fledged young will be able to find seeds that are ripening.  

At Goose Pond Sanctuary goldfinches like to feed on prairie dock and sawtooth sunflower seeds. We usually pick the prairie dock seeds just before they are ripe, or we risk losing them to the goldfinches. If we see large flocks of goldfinches in the prairie, it is a phenological signal that it is time to collect the seed of these two species!

This week, we observed young barn swallows and mourning doves in nests and the goldfinch nest will probably be the last active nest we will find for the first year of the bird atlas project.  However, we are still looking for families/broods of some species such as wild turkeys.  We enjoyed working on the bird atlas project this year and are now busy entering our data.  If you find a bird species that you would like to submit atlas records for, please contact your atlas coordinator found in the link provided here.

Written by Mark Martin & Sue Foote-Martin

Photo by Chad Horwedel