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Alan Barnard

The Case of the Disappearing Finches

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The first birds that came to our feeders were a small flock of Lesser Goldfinches. There were probably a half dozen to start, and the group quickly grew to between 25-30. The number peaked one morning after an all-night rain storm. I awoke to the sound of 40-50 chattering finches in the tree outside our bedroom. They were so loud I thought the neighbors might complain, but within the next week or so, the entire flock pretty much cleared out, leaving fewer than a half dozen visiting on a regular basis.

I spoke to one of our local experts about why they might have left, and she said it could be anything from a predator such as a neighborhood cat or a Sharp-shinned Hawk, to the presence of a  bird such as a Northern Flicker, to a change in feeding patterns due to an increase in natural food availability. We did have a hawk chase after a house finch one day, and a Flicker dropped by briefly another day, but I haven't seen any predators lurking around on a regular basis.

 Any guesses as to why our large flock disappeared? Is the abundance of natural food sources this time of year the most likely culprit? I'm in Northern California.

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Do they occur in your area year round?  I didn't know if maybe they were migrating since you see some movement of birds in the Spring and Fall.  Perhaps they have better food sources where they are going?   I have a couple of Cooper's Hawks in the woods behind my house and I still get birds at my feeders so it is hard to say that it is a predator. 

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What food are you putting out?

The goldfinches at our feeders tend to eat the sunflower seeds during the winter and Nyger in the Spring thru fall.

 

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