A treasury of American goldfinch lore
Happy Father’s Day! This month features the American goldfinch, one of the avian world’s busiest fathers. When brooding, a female goldfinch spends 95 percent of her time incubating eggs. She is totally reliant on the male for food. If there is a second brood, the father will assume the duties of feeding the fledglings, as well as the female.
Those who know the answers to all of these questions deserve a gold(finch) medal.
1. The American goldfinch is the only finch in its genus to molt twice a year. Can you pick out the one statement that does not describe this spring molt?
A. Its pink beak turns orange.
B. The male sports a lemon yellow body to attract females.
C. All but wing and tail feathers molt.
D. Its feet take on a greenish hue.
2. The American goldfinch is known for its wavy, undulating flight as well as the call that accompanies this flight. What does the call sound like?
3. When does the American goldfinch’s flight get even loopier?
A. When courting
B. When establishing territory
C. When fighting off predators
D. When teaching fledglings to fly.
4. Goldfinches, which pair off in the spring, are among the last birds to nest. What is thought to be the reason for this?
A. Their complicated nests take a long time to build.
B. They are primarily seed eaters and wait for the availability of seeds to be at its peak.
C. They pair off before they reach their breeding grounds, which they don’t arrive at until midsummer.
D. They wait until the weather is warm enough to incubate their eggs.
5. Where are American goldfinch nests usually built?
A. In the fork of a small tree or shrub.
B. Hanging from a high branch.
C. On the ground.
D. In a tree cavity.
6. The American goldfinch nest is made of grasses and plant fibers lined with caterpillar silk, spider webs and thistle down. What danger can rain pose to this nest?
A. It unravels in the rain if not shielded by leaves.
B. It is so watertight that the young birds can drown if the parents are not careful.
C. It leaks, allowing the cold wind and rain to chill the young birds.
D. The silk from the caterpillar and spider can shrink, making the nest too small.
7. Like most birds, American goldfinches develop a brood patch, an area where feathers are lost or plucked, when nesting. What is its purpose?
A. It makes it easier for the female bird to lay her eggs.
B. It reduces the female bird’s volume so there is more room for the birds in the nest.
C. An increase of blood vessels near the skin keeps the babies warmer.
D. It secretes musky oil that helps the young birds recognize their mother when they are fledglings.
8. Except when it is building its nest, the American goldfinch is a very social bird. In winter, it is frequently found in flocks with two other related species listed below. The goldfinch is known to avoid areas where the third bird is present in large numbers. Which bird is this?
A. Common redpoll
B. House sparrow
C. Pine sisken
9. Brown-headed cowbirds often lay their eggs in American goldfinch nests, but the cowbird chicks almost always die. Why?
A. They grow too big and fall out of the nest.
B. They starve to death on the mostly seed diet that the goldfinches provide for their young.
C. The goldfinch parents recognize the parasitic chicks and kick them out.
D. They don’t hatch until the young goldfinches have already fledged and the parents have stopped bringing food to the nest.
10. There are a variety of names given to a group of American goldfinches. Can you pick out five of these terms from the list below:
007, bounce, charm, chest, ringlet, rush, sprinkle, treasury, whirl, vein
10. 007, charm, rush, treasury, vein
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