What Happened To All The Fancy Goldfinch?

The American Goldfinch is the only finch to molt all its body feathers twice a year, once in early spring and again in early fall. It’s the spring molt of the male that gets people especially excited. Every spring we hear from customers that their Goldfinch have returned. But, unless we have had a really cold winter with temperatures falling below 0°F for an extended period, it is unlikely that our Goldfinch ever left. It’s just that in spring Goldfinch males molt into the brightest of yellows and in fall they molt into a drab olive and look almost identical to females. Females molt twice a year also, they just don’t molt into that spectacular yellow of their mates. Male and female Goldfinch can weather our harsh winters because during their fall molt the feathers they grow are much denser than their summer plumage. These soft feathers provide an additional layer of insulation to help them keep warm throughout the winter. The color of Goldfinch legs, feet and bill also change with each molt. In winter plumage their legs, feet and bill are dark grayish brown and in breeding/ summer plumage they change to a buffy yellow orange.