Once every four years, this nation turns its eyes to Iowa. That time is upon us as candidates vie for the Democratic presidential nomination in the 2004 Iowa Caucus. Go, Howard Dean! Since the Hawkeye State is the center of the media universe today, we’d like to take this opportunity to admire the Iowa state bird, the American Goldfinch.
- The American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis, is a beautiful little bird, smaller than a sparrow. Although drab in winter, males spend much of the year resplendent in bright lemon-yellow plumage set off by black and white wings, cap, and tail. Females and immature males are more of a olive-yellow.
- American Goldfinch are quite common throughout the U.S. These “wild canaries” are no strangers to backyard bird feeders, but they are also easy to spot in forests, fields, and wetlands. Goldfinch are gregarious, gathering in small groups or large flocks. They are also mostly monogamous. Their notable flight pattern, with its dips and rises, has been likened to a roller coaster.
- Iowa is not the only state proud of its yellow-bird population. The American Goldfinch is also the state bird of New Jersey and Washington, although the latter state refers to it as the Willow Goldfinch. Why the idea of an AMERICAN Goldfinch is not good enough for Washington state, I cannot say.