Lesser Goldfinch


Wouldn’t you just hate to be called “lesser”? It seems that most birds are named for famous people (Lewis’s Woodpecker, Meriwether Lewis or Clark’s Nutcracker, William Clark), for the bird’s behavior or location (Eastern Flycatcher) or for physical attributes (Scissor-tailed Flycatcher). Most birds have ended up with beautiful or useful names. But what happened to the Lesser Goldfinch? It’s been assigned a rather insulting name simply because of it’s size. They weren’t interested in being politically corrected when they handed out this bird’s name!

The Lesser Goldfinch is indeed small… it is the smallest of the North American goldfinches at 4.5″ compared with the slightly larger Lawrence’s (nice name) and the American Goldfinch (patriotic name!) at 5″.

I observed my first Lesser Goldfinches yesterday — a male and female — and found them to be beautiful and fascinating birds. The birds are usually found in the southwestern and interior western states but on rare occasions, Lessers have been found in two areas of Oklahoma: Comanche County is the southwest part of the state, and the panhandle. I was fortunate to join my birding friend Terri Underhill on a quick trip to our friends Kurt & Sharon Meisenzahl’s home in Lawton in hopes of seeing a pair that’s been hanging out at their backyard feeders. The birds didn’t disappoint even with 35+ mph winds! They arrived shortly after we did and I was able to get photos of both the male and female (male is pictured). I’m never really pleased with most of my photos and these are no exception but they are a beginning! We just need to get invited back and I can try for better pictures :-)

And, by the way, another bird that’s been stuck with a diminutive name is the Lesser Prairie-Chicken… a bird that is as sought after by birders because it’s become so rare as its cousin the Greater Prairie-Chicken. So let’s hear it for these marvelous “Lessers”!!

1 comment to Lesser Goldfinch

  • Our lesser goldfinches are such fun to watch and to listen to. We have at least two or three mated pairs that frequent our feeders, though they do tend to yeild to the house finches that usurp their perches. Fortunately, I have enough perches so that no one needs to feel “lesser”!

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