American Goldfinch, Spinus tristis

by Rachel Creager Ireland

Came around a corner and spied two goldfinches, one atop the echinacea, which has dried to black stalks crowned with full heads of seeds; the other bird nearby. They are such dedicated seed-eaters that they don’t even nest until late summer, when seeds are abundant. In other years I loved to watch goldfinches perched on the top of a sunflower bloom, leaning down to grab seed after seed, which they managed to break open to get the rich kernels inside, then dropped the shells to the ground. After they left, I’d poke through the debris on the ground, finding not a single intact seed. Still, new sunflowers always manage to come up right in that spot the next year.

Ted Andrews says that “goldfinch can help you to deepen your perceptions so that you can begin to see and experience the activities of the nature spirits yourself.” And also, “Goldfinches are rarely silent. This in itself is a reminder that Nature is speaking to us constantly and that we should learn to listen and communicate with it from all levels. It reflects that the nature spirits are around us at all times.”

I’ve observed that they are very shy, and as soon as they know I’m watching them, they fly. I’ll have to practice quietness if I want the privilege of watching them. If they come back at all . . .

Did I say I would collect echinacea seeds to plant, come fall? I’ll have to revise that plan now.

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