|Common Name:||Lawrence’s Goldfinch|
|Scientific Name:||Spinus Lawrencei|
|Length:||Around 4 to 5 inches|
|Clutch Size:||3 to 6 eggs|
|Habitat:||Open and Dry Oak Woodlands|
|Country of Origin:||United States, Mexico|
Lawrence’s Goldfinches are unique among the Goldfinch family because of their mostly gray body. Male goldfinches feature a black forehead and throat, complex black and yellow wing patterns, and yellow breast. Female birds are duller compared with males.
These birds are also included as among the most attractive songbirds in North America. They have a soft gray overall feature, with a black face, and amounts of lemon yellow all throughout their body. In terms of size, these goldfinches are a bit bigger than the lesser goldfinch but slightly smaller than an American goldfinch. They, however, have less yellow plumage than others.
Both male and female goldfinches are gray in color, with pink to grayish tan-colored bills, and are stubbier compared with other members of the goldfinch family. They have yellow rumps and a pair of yellowish wing-bars, along with yellow edges on their flight feathers. They have a black tail with a white band cross. Their plumage is observed to be duller in winter but starts to brighten after molting in spring.
In general, male goldfinches do not get their lemon-yellow plumage through molting. Instead, their feathers become more yellow as they continue to wear. They also shed their brownish color, further exposing the yellow parts of their feather underneath. No other species of goldfinches retain this breeding plumage in this way.
Lawrence’s Goldfinches are a species that are amazingly homogenous. This means that they have no subspecies. As what one study records, there is also no genetic variation, as seen at the 23 locations that are tested.
This species is usually found in grassy woodlands. Even though it may be quite uncommon, they usually travel in huge flocks, most especially in fall and winter. Because of the preference of this species for remote and arid habitat, the Desert Southwest and California render them unfamiliar to some birders. These birds are also highly erratic, moving around quite a lot every year in order to look for rainfall, drinking water, and seeding plants. For this reason, they are quite difficult to track down. They are also found to visit feeders at times.
These birds are mostly seen to nest in dry and open oak woodlands with weedy fields, chaparral, and a good source of fresh water. They also forest and nest in pinyon pine-juniper woodlands, coastal scrub, as well as in streamline habitats. In areas surrounding ranches and in suburban locations, they usually feed in weedy fields and seen perching in conifers or ornamental cypresses. At times, they offer convenient dense cover, which is useful for nesting.
Right after the breeding season, they make erratic movements in locations that are similar to their breeding habitats, such as river floodplains, desert arroyos, weedy fields, mesquite bosques, cultivated fields, gardens, orchards, roadsides, and parks.
Lawrence’s Goldfinch is well known because of its wandering behavior. They breed around the area surrounding Shasta County in California, to the northern parts of Baja, California, mainly in the Coast Ranges, along with the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and in the highlands of Baja. At times, they are also found as far down as the coast. Their highest breeding altitude is at around 8,800 feet, recorded at Mount Pinos.
A few places have been reported to serve as nesting places for these birds every year, the Carmel Valley, as well as the South Fork Kern River. Their choice of the breeding area highly depends on factors such as climate, as well as the availability of preferred foods and water. Moving to the coast, as well as upslope in the Sierras, happen during years of drought, while movements to the edges of their range, going into the Central Valley, usually happen during wet years. This is possibly due to an increased supply of food in these areas. They have also been found to breed in Arizona.
Though not all the time, Lawrence’s Goldfinches tend to leave northern, central, as well as inland southern California during winter. They also move to the coastal lowlands, as well as the lower edges of the Southeastern California deserts. During some winters, few birds were mysteriously observed, possibly the ones that are in Chihuahua and Sonora, which are covered poorly by naturalists.
They are typically nesting in habitats as open and dry woods that are near annual weed fields and brush areas. They are usually within 0.5 miles of a small body of water. They may also choose to nest in other types of habitats, including areas that are nearby rural residential locations, but not in dense forests or deserts. Out of the nesting season, they usually occur in several open habitats such as city parks, suburbs, and deserts.
Food and Diet
These goldfinches mostly eat plant seeds. They rarely eat an insect, even though jumping gall wasp larvae play a huge role in their diet. They also eat some fruits and plant buds. Just like their relatives American Goldfinch, they forage by getting seeds while perched, eating them whole, or quickly husking them in the bill right before swallowing them.
Also, they perch in seed-bearing plants as they eat, sometimes on a wire fence or in a nearby plant. As they eat, they may be seen to hang upside down to reach the seeds. These birds are seen to be gregarious in winter, foraging and traveling in flocks, even joining other groups of finches, juncos, or sparrows in weedy fields.
During the season for breeding, they also love forming in groups, but a smaller one. In particular, plants that belong to the Boraginaceae family play an important part in their lives in spring, as well as the seeds of fiddlenecks. Other food sources for this species include mistletoe, chamise, pigweed, inkweed, coffeeberry, and thistles.
As spring starts to approach, smaller groups of these birds settle in nesting areas that are considered productive and start pairing up. They usually perch together even when they are still part of a flock. During this time of the year, the male birds may become quite intolerant with potential rivals within the flock. At times, they are attacked in flight.
These birds are observed to show a threat display first, raising and fanning their tail, lowering the wings, and swaying from side to side, singing as they face their rival. The males sing, which serves as courtship calls in order to attract the females. They may also choose to land close to a female, which also shows their interest by perching close to the male while giving contact calls.
These two birds will then face each other, bow and touch bills, and the male usually regurgitates food for the female. The female, in turn, may quiver her wings. The males may be seen to chase the females in flight, though mating occurs usually after the male makes a flight right in front of the female. Then, she will face the male, vibrating her wings, while raising both head and tail.
Nesting and Breeding
The nesting season for Lawrence’s Goldfinch is early spring to early summer. At times, they nest as late as the latter part of July. Just like other cardueline finches, the pairs gather together to form pre-breeding groups. The pairs usually leave the flock and begin to look for nesting sites, with the female taking the lead. They are usually observed to carry nesting material and seen to do building movements.
The males follow as well as calling and singing. The nest sites may be in trees, but earlier during the season, they are found in western sycamores and mistletoes, while later on, they live in live oaks, particularly blue oaks.
The nests are oftentimes single, though, at times, they are in loose colonies, which may have 10 pairs of birds or more. Females usually build their nest while the males follow them on long forays of gathering materials or singing from a perch. The nests are usually constructed using loosely woven cup using several small branches, all placed around 10 feet up near the tree edge. There are usually 3 to 6 eggs, unmarked white with a green or blue tinge.
The female goldfinches start to incubate their eggs for about 12 to 13 days, brooding the chicks for about four to five days. During these days, they stay almost constantly in their nest, while the males bring them food. When the fourth day passes, the female joins the male in their trips to gather food but broods at times until the seventh day. The chicks will then continue to fledge for about 13 to 14 days and leave their family in order to join a pre-migratory flock after 5 to 7 days.
During the duration of the breeding period, the males join to form small groups, while the females stay on the nest. In other times, these birds are observed in flocks, typically composed of below 50 individual birds, though reaching more than 500 occasionally. The flocks may join other small seed-eating species.
Until the female birds lay their eggs successfully, the males defend the area around their nest, while the females chiefly defend the nest itself. A pair may nest close to others without any problem. Both male and female birds bond during most of this season, chasing, rubbing bills, calling, even mating after their nestlings are hatched. The parent birds share both incubation and rearing duties. After the young birds have fledged, the adults, as well as other young groups into flocks and may start their nomadic travels in summer, such as their movements up into montane habitats.
Sights of about 700 Lawrence’s goldfinches have been reported, though most contain less than 50 birds, roosting together overnight. These birds’ travels and movements may seem unpredictable, though recently, large numbers have been observed to move east across Colorado River and winter in Western Texas.
The calls of these birds sound like a nasal “too-err,” and a high, sharp “piti” and “itititi.” They also have a flight call, which is diagnostic, given in a clear and high sound of “ti-too,” or “tink-ul,” which is similar to that of glass wind chimes.
The song that these birds produce is continuous, high-pitched, and limited in range and frequency. This includes wind-chime tones, as well as imitations of the calls of other species, along with other distinct and simple sounds.
Male goldfinches are observed to sing in winter, mostly during the breeding season. Females, on the other hand, sing briefly and occasionally.
Conservation and Threats
The actual determination of the population trend of this species is quite challenging due to their nomadic nature, as well as the remoteness of some nesting areas. However, according to the reports from Partners in Flight, these birds currently have a population of 380,000. Lawrence Goldfinches are included in the Yellow Watch List for bird species with restricted ranges. The population of these birds were steady or slightly decreased between the years 1968 and 2015. Degradation and development of their habitats, as well as the introduction and proliferation of non-native plants, and overgrazing may pose as the main conservation threats to these birds.
Tips to Attract Lawrence’s Goldfinches
These birds visit feeders within their range at times, especially those that are filled with nyjer, as well as other very small seeds.
Where to Get One?
Lawrence’s Goldfinches are available from reliable breeders. These birds are not as common as pets; however, permission to rehabilitate them is possible. If you have these birds under your care, a number of ways to care for them are available.
How to Care?
Just like with other backyard birds, it is very important to meet the basic needs of these birds in terms of providing them nutritious food, secure shelter, freshwater, and appropriate nesting sites. This will help ensure their overall health.
Goldfinches, in general, will stop by easily by a birdbath for both a quick sip or a bath. However, it is best to prepare a basin that is shallow enough to give them easy access, considering that they are small birds. A fountain or a dripper in the bath will further help attract them. The bath, along with the nearby perches, needs to be regularly cleaned in order to avoid the possibility of spreading diseases that may infect an entire flock quickly.
Where do Lawrence’s Goldfinches migrate?
Unlike other migratory birds, Lawrence’s Goldfinches mostly move to the East and West instead of moving North and South, in-between seasons.
What do you call a group of Lawrence’s Goldfinches?
A group of Lawrence’s Goldfinches can be described using several collective nouns. This includes “charm,” “treasury,” and “vein.”
How did Lawrence’s Goldfinch get its name?
This species was named by John Cassin back in 1850 for his colleague George Lawrence, who was an ornithologist and businessman in New York.