Winters, particularly ones as severe as our winter was this year, are hard on birds. The deep snow can make food inaccessible, while the bitter cold increases energy requirements. During storms Leonard and I often find birds that are too weak to even fly.
Lesser goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) usually remain year round throughout most of their range – broadly, the southwest quarter of the United States, Central America and a few locations in South America. Lesser goldfinches in the coldest parts of their range do move to lower elevations in the winter or will migrate short distances. The winter migration patterns of the lesser goldfinch are not well studied or understood.
Last week the ground at Baum Lake (Shasta County CA) was covered with snow. Yet I did see a few lesser goldfinches. The pictured bird was working hard to find seeds in the dry foliage sticking above the snow. Lesser goldfinches primarily eat seeds, particularly those of the sunflower (Asteraceae) family. A goldfinch will use its bill to pry open the outer covering of the seed, shake its head to loosen the seed from its covering and then swallow the released seed. Lesser goldfinches will also occasionally eat insects (of which there were few) and tree buds (a more promising prospect in early spring).
I described the lesser goldfinch more fully in a previous post: Lesser Goldfinch 04-22-2012.
I hope this pretty little bird found enough seeds to survive the latest wave of snowstorms.