I settled into the wooden rocking chair on my parents’ porch at about 8 in the morning, early for some but hopelessly late for most birders. Taking a sip of coffee, I knew I had none of my usual birding accoutrements with me – no binoculars, no bird list, no field guide. In fact, if I am being 100% honest, I was in my pajamas. But for a week of mornings during a trip to Maine, none of that bothered me, because I was on the lookout for only one species: the American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch.
American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinches are common in Maine, and can be found across much of the United States. Unlike so many other beloved North American bird species, their populations have been relatively stable since the mid-20th century, hovering around 44 million breeding birds. They love birdseed, and I focused on the handful of feeders my father kept stocked a few yards from the porch (thanks Dad!). Rocking back and forth, I watched the impossibly bright goldfinches as they flit from tree to tree, like tiny balls of sunshine. They drew my eye as they flew with their signature flapping pattern, bright yellow against the dense foliage or the bluest sky.  I never tired of watching them, and miss my morning goldfinch ritual now that I’m back in Florida.

Don’t get me wrong, you can see American Goldfinches in Florida too, but usually in the winter, when their plumage has dulled without the pressure of breeding. For a short period of time they do take on their brilliant yellow hue before migrating north for the summer, and I plan to have new feeders ready for them!

Written by Erika Zambello
Erika Zambello is a National Geographic Young Explorer who grew up in Maine, inspiring a deep interest in nature at an early age. She fell in love with birding after receiving a Sibley field guide for Christmas during her senior year in college, and has birded across the eastern seaboard and internationally ever since. To inspire others to protect birds and the environment, she has blogged for the Conservation Fund, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Triangle Land Conservancy, and Duke University, and is writing a birding guide to Northern New England for Wilderness Adventures Press. She has founded OneWorldTwoFeet.com, and is currently living along the Emerald Coast in Florida's Panhandle. You can check out her exploration site or follow her on Instragram.