The goldfinches at my feeder are starting to look dull and patchy. What’s happening to them?

April 1, 2009
American Goldfinch may have duller coloration in the winter, but they are still handsome little birds. Photo by Trevor Carl via Birdshare. American Goldfinch may have duller coloration in the winter, but they are still handsome little birds. Photo by Trevor Carl via Birdshare.
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Your goldfinches aren’t sick—they’re molting. Every summer, goldfinches replace their bright body feathers with duller ones for the winter. The new feathers come in one by one, giving the birds that strange patchwork appearance.

Unlike most songbirds, goldfinches molt twice a year. At winter’s end, they’ll grow in a complete set of new golden yellow feathers. Again each one will have a strange, patchy appearance for a few days, but soon they’ll be vividly beautiful again.

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