Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

The Usual Suspects

Lesser goldfinch

Most all of the usual suspects have checked in for this year’s Project FeederWatch. The orange-crowned warbler and ruby-crowned kinglet came back to the suet feeders last weekend, and the goldfinches finally returned as well.

The lesser goldfinches are year-round residents, but they typically leave the feeders in October and return late in November or early December. This year it was late December before one came around. Especially exciting, though, was the fact that a few American goldfinches also came by. I saw them regularly during the 2008-2009 Feederwatch season, but last year I only saw one, and he came very late in the season. Hopefully, the ones I saw will tell their friends, and I’ll see them fairly regularly over the next few months.

The only species I haven’t seen yet are Bewick’s wren and northern cardinal. The Bewick’s wren is around. I see them several times a week, but I have yet to see one on Saturday or Sunday, which are my official count days. Perhaps they like to take the weekends off. I know I do. As for the cardinals, I’m not surprised that I haven’t seen any since summer. Some winters they’re around the feeders, and some winters they aren’t. If I don’t see any, I’m sure they’ll show up come spring. Down here, that means next month.

Here’s what I’ve counted. The numbers in parentheses are the highest single count for that species:

  1. White-winged Dove (24)
  2. Mourning Dove (1)
  3. Blue Jay (3)
  4. Carolina Chickadee (1)
  5. Black-crested Titmouse (3)
  6. Carolina Wren (2)
  7. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1)
  8. Northern Mockingbird (1)
  9. Orange-crowned Warbler (1)
  10. Chipping Sparrow (23)
  11. House Finch (1)
  12. Lesser Goldfinch (1)
  13. American Goldfinch (2)
  14. House Sparrow (12)

I don’t think it’s too late to get involved with Project FeederWatch, which is good because citizen science projects rock.


  1. (Thanks for the link!)

    Perhaps you can help me understand the difference between American and Lesser Goldfinch. Here the females are nearly impossible to tell one from the other. I can never make a positive ID. Ever. 🙂

    • Our feeder is very close to our window and sometimes they show up together. When that happens you can see that the Americans are quite a bit larger than the lessers.

      Also, our Texas version of the lesser goldfinch has a black back and the females display more yellow than I think they do in your next of the woods. I was trying to figure it out from a guidebook today, and the western ones look a lot more like Americans than our Texas ones. I hope that helps.

  2. The cardinals are all out here in the Hill Country(Johnson City). They decorate the leafless Texas persimmons like Christmas ornaments and eat large quantities of black-oil sunflower seeds. I can understand their reluctance to go to the big city, I don’t like going there either.

    • That sounds nice, all those cardinals in the hill country. It’s funny I still don’t think of Austin as “the big city” but I guess it is now.

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