Lawrence’s Goldfinch

by Dave Hanks

This goldfinch is colored differently from what you would expect from a member of the goldfinch group. Nevertheless it is attractive, and a species that we feel is important to have in our files. It is also a species that one would have to visit Southern California to see – and then it would require some luck to find.

Just north of Bakersfield is a valley – a valley at a much higher elevation than Bakersfield. It is the Lake Isabella/Kern River Valley. Many species of birds are there during the April/May spring migration. If you keep going up the Kern River road, which is on the west side of the valley, you will get into the mountains and forest campgrounds. Further up is the Sequoia National Park. On the east side of the valley is a bird research station. The station feeds birds and has nesting houses which House Wrens and Western bluebirds utilize. Many other species come to their feeding stations. A major reason that we went to this valley was to see Red-Breasted Sapsuckers and LAWRENCE’S GOLDFINCH. We thought the goldfinch would be at the bird seed – but no, they did not do what we expected them to do. They were there, but not at the feed. My wife saw them close up (without a camera), but they seemed to avoid me. Discouraged, we moved to a campground on the west side. There they were sitting calmly in a tree – just asking for their pictures to be taken.

Look for a small 4 to 5 inch gray bird with a black face, yellow breast, yellow lower back and rump, black wings with yellow bars, and a short forked tail.

This bird breeds in the woodlands of California and the Baja. Its nests are usually single but sometimes in colonies over 10 or more. While the female builds the nest, the male just follows her and sings. It’s amusing that many women would say: “That’s just like a man”. While the female is on the nest, the males will form small flocks and leave the rest up to her. This uncommon, small finch is highly erratic in its movements from year to year – which makes it difficult to study.

 Lawrence's Goldfinch perched on a limb

There he is – finally!

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