Natural Sightings #617 - Lesser Goldfinch.jpg

An immature male or female Lesser Goldfinch is seen in Bear Valley Springs.

Cheryl Sigler took this photo of a bird that appears to be an immature male or female Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) perched on a sprinkler head. Cheryl took the photo during an autumn visit to her parents, Dan and Cynthia Baer, at their home in Bear Valley Springs.

There are three different species of Goldfinch that can be found in the Tehachapi Mountains over the course of a year: Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch and Lawrence's Goldfinch.

Oldtimers in the West used to refer to them as "wild canaries," and they do bear a passing resemblance to the well-known yellow cage birds. Goldfinches are smaller than sparrows, and they have conical bills that are well-suited (naturally) to their primary diet of seeds.

Lesser Goldfinches are particularly fond of seeds from the Asteraceae or sunflower family, including thistles. They can be seen feeding on yellow starthistle and other plants, clinging upside to the nodding seed heads as they use their bills to pluck out seeds. They also eat emerging buds of cottonwoods and willows.

Large flocks of Lesser Goldfinches, sometimes numbering more than 100 birds, visit the vineyards outside Arvin, where the foothill slopes of the Tehachapi Mountains meet the San Joaquin Valley floor. The Goldfinches flit their way through the vineyard, feeding on seeds and raisins left behind clinging to the dried stems.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Goldfinch is Nüwüzarikizhi, pronounced nuh-wuh-za-REEK-izsh, and these diminutive little birds played a role in several traditional Nuwä stories.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.