|Lesser goldfinch,left, and American goldfinches, right, show winter plumage. Photo by J.J. Meyer|
Goldfinches have changed over to their "winter coats."
Their new drab plumage provides better camouflage. And their "winter coats" actually have more feathers than their bright-yellow breeding plumage to help them beat the cold winter months.
If you've noticed the goldfinches in your yard looking a bit bedraggled over the past few months, they weren't sick, they were molting. In California and Oregon, both the American and and lesser goldfinches molt from August through October.
They lose their bright breeding feathers and replace them with a more dull colors, giving them a patchy appearance as they grow in. Molting allows birds to replace worn or damaged feathers, which is a critical process. Feathers are not only responsible for flight, they also give birds weather protection making them virtually waterproof.
Unlike many songbirds, goldfinches molt twice a year, so you'll have your brilliant yellow male back in the spring when he starts looking for a mate.