Feeding on Sunflowers

This year for the first time Leonard planted sunflowers near our house (Lookout CA, Modoc County) hoping that we would attract some birds to the sunflower seeds. We were disappointed when no birds came to the sunflower heads this autumn. Within the last week lesser goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) finally discovered the plants and are now gorging on the sunflower seeds. They become so intent on feeding that with patience and stealth I can get within about 5 feet of them with my camera.

Lesser goldfinches are found in Western United States through Central America and into northern South America. They prefer open areas surrounded by brush but are also found in urban and suburban areas, particularly around feeders.

Feeding in small flocks, lesser goldfinches mostly survive on the seeds of plants in the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). While clinging to the seed head they pry open the outer covering of the seed, shake their head to loosen and remove the husk and then swallow the kernel.

Lesser goldfinches are probably called “lesser” because they have less yellow than their cousins, American goldfinches, and their yellow is duller.

Now that the lesser goldfinches discovered our sunflowers, other small seed-eating birds, mostly juncos, also arrived for the feast. Since the sunflowers are a success Leonard will probably plant more next year.

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