Lawrence's Goldfinch from the Wild West
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Picture of John Cassin & George N. Lawrence
In 1850, George Newbold Lawrence had his colleague, John Cassin, name this bird for him. George Newbold Lawrence, from New York, was both a businessman and an ornithologist.
This species has no known subspecies, making it especially homogenous. After being tested at 23 sites which were all unrelated, with no genetic change among the birds tested, at least according to one study.
As you are familiar with most migratory birds moving northward and southward between seasons, these birds move mostly to the east and west.
A couple of other names are Chardonneret gris from the French and Dominiquito de Lawrence, Jilguero gris from the Spanish.
Being a measurement of 4.5” – 4.75”, this bird is in the middle of the goldfinch group. Wingspan: When it is in flight the wings spread to an 8.25”. Weight: It definitely weighs more than the Lesser Goldfinch but almost as much as the American Goldfinch sometimes. It generally weighs 0.40 oz.
Lawrence’s Goldfinch ID (Carduelis lawrencei)
[You may occasionally see Spinus lawrencei, but I do not think that is used anymore. I have found more of the Carduelis when I looked.]
The male Lawrence’s Goldfinch has a black cap, face and throat plus a small, stubby bill. His bill is flesh-colored and contrasts with his black face and throat at all seasons. Two other areas that contrast the black areas are his pale gray cheeks. He has a gray nape and when his wings are open, or stretched, you can also see his gray mantle.
On the males the dark wings are yellow-gray wing bars and the primary feathers are yellow-edged. Both of which you are able to see better when the wings are closed. It also has a fairly long tail which is dark with a few white streaks.
The sides are gray as is the breast but on the breast is a yellow patch. In general, the underparts and the belly are white. The rump can be from a white to yellow-gray even to a full-gray.
There are normally only slight changes between the summer and winter birds, although they do look duller and have browner backs in the winter.
- Female: Adult
The female has a gray face and lacks the black facial markings such as the cap and throat.
Even though this bird is sexually dimorphic both have the yellow patches on the breast plus a cone-shaped bill. The only difference is that the female’s patches may be lighter than the males. She has the yellow wing bars and edges of the primary feathers like the male. The head and back of the female are grayer than in other goldfinches and the wing bars are yellower. Basically she is gray colored in general.
When one is in flight you will notice a white band across the fairly long tail and that the underwing coverts are also white.
When a Lawrence’s Goldfinch is in the nest it shows a little bit of yellow or light brown with faint streaks on its back. There are also some white spots at about its mid-tail.
Once it leaves the nest, it looks similar to the female. By then it has even less yellow and sometimes it looks like it is all brownish gray.
Male on feeder
This bird forages on the ground and in low foliage for weed seeds and insects. This bird comes to bird feeders for sunflower seed and thistle seed. They eat almost exclusively seeds mostly from annual plants. They are gleaners. They sit on foliage and pick seeds from it.
Even though they forage on the ground they have short, strong legs to be able to scramble about on cones and seed heads and this includes hanging upside down in their search for food.
They like to feed in flocks after breeding on the rich chamise chaparral. They surface in the driest washes and slopes, as long as they have access to water.
Since they feed their young soft fresh seeds, they wait until plants/weeds have grown and bloomed and gone to seed. Because of this they are late nesters.
Their nest is a loose cup made of leaves, grasses, lichens, wool, hair, feathers and flowers, placed in a shrub or tree 3’ – 40’ above the ground.
Eggs: There are usually around 3 – 6 of them at a time, their color is somewhat of a light blue. Incubation: The eggs are kept warm for 12 - 13 days.
Fledging: The young then stay in the nest for another 13 - 14 days, they are altricial;
Breeding: The parents breed indefinitely.
One year many may be found in an area, the next year, when the seed crop fails fewer of the birds may be seen.
The Lawrence’s Goldfinch lives in arid, grassy/weedy slopes, chaparral, open oak or pine woods. It can also be found near weed patches and open woodlands and it seeks out water sources in its dry environment. A common water site is stream sides.
One of their favorite habitats
Can live in dry areas
Makes sure there is a water source nearby
Lawrence's Goldfinch singing
The song of the Lawrence’s Goldfinch is a bubbling twitter. It is kind of a high, long warble which sounds bell-like. It is rapid and varied without repeated musical notes, but it is composed almost entirely of imitations of call notes of other species.
The call is a nasal “too-err” or it can also be a sharp, high “PIti” and “Ititit”.
Call in flight is an original “tinkoo”, “tink-ui”, or even a clear “ti-too” – kind of high, a hectic disorder of sweet and dry notes. Often including call notes both its own, and those of other species. The flight note frequently reveals the bird’s presence high overhead.
The Lawrence's Goldfinch breeds in central and southern California, west of Sierra Nevada and south into Baja California. This bird winters south and east from California through southern Arizona and New Mexico to extreme western Texas and south into northwestern Mexico.
They spend their breeding time in central-southern California; winter in the Baja; and summer in Arizona, New Mexico, the extreme part of Texas mentioned and Mexico.
The range of this bird is as particularly large as is its population.
The Lawrence’s Goldfinch is presently surveyed as ‘Least Concern’. This score was reduced from ‘Lower Risk’. This bird is native to the United States and to Mexico.
This bird is treated to be common enough to warrant no current cares about possible decline of its population. Although it is supposedly on what is called a 'Watch List' because of its small range. At the moment it is not declining even with this watch. It is the only fringilid that is on this Watch List.
In the winter, they are found in flocks, often with other goldfinches and Lark Sparrows.
All of the species in the genus Carduelis are known to include impressions of other species calls into their song. Lawrence’s and Lesser Goldfinches use many impressions, Pine Siskins use less, and American Goldfinch and redpolls use the least.
Possible future bird
Is this bird on your list for the near future?
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