DECEMBER 10, 2011:
I live in Georgetown. There is a finch/sparrow size bird at my thistle feeder: all black back, wings and head with yellow breast and belly (no stripes)– on the back at the base of the tail are two small yellow chevrons, three segments each. I can’t find an ID. Can you please help? Thank you.
From your description, that bird is most likely to be a Lesser Goldfinch male. Nothing else yellow and black is likely to be using a thistle feeder. Unlike the American Goldfinch, the male Lesser retains his bright plumage through the winter, probably because they are less migratory. Your field guide may show this bird with a green back sometimes, but we only have the black-backed race here in Texas. There are lots of American Goldfinches around right now but they often don’t come to feeders until after Christmas – they will all look like females this time of year, so the male Lesser Goldfinch will really stand out. Another bird to be on the lookout for at your thistle feeder is the Pine Siskin: because of the severe drought we are seeing more western birds than usual this winter.
Hope that’s some help!
– Stan (Guest Bird Expert)