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Lawrence's Goldfinches (Spinus lawrencei) are highly unpredictable wanderers, present somewhere one year, gone the next. They are small, uncommon finches preferring drier, hotter climates than most other goldfinches .


Appearance

These small finches are 4-4 3/4 inches (10-12 centimeters) in length with a wingspan of 6-6 1/2 inches (15-16 centimeters). They weigh 5/16-1/2 ounces (9-14 grams).

Lawrence's Goldfinches have gray heads and backs, yellow wing patches, small pale bills, and forked tails. Males have black faces and yellow chests. Females have drabber plummage than the males, with no black forehead and yellow chest.

Occurrence

They breed in open foothills and valleys in California at elevations up to 9,000 feet (2,750 meters). Northern populations are migrantory, while southern birds may wander north to Arizona and west Texas. They mostly migrate east and west instead of north and south.

These birds prefer dry, chaparral, grassy slopes and generally hotter climates than the other goldfinches.

Behavior

Lawrence's Goldfinches are social creatures living in flocks. They mate through April to August and build nests that are open cups of grass planted down in a tree or shrub. They have 1-2 broods with 4-5 eggs in each. The eggs are white and unmarked; sometimes a very pale blue. When the chicks hatch, they are completely helpless with down on their backs. They live for an unknown amount of time.

When feeding, Lawrence's Goldfinches perch on plants and pick seeds from them, mostly annual plants and weeds. They will also eat buds and some insects.

A Lawrence's Goldfinch's song is canary like, with single, bell-like notes and a harsh sound that sounds like kee-urr. They will sometimes imitate other species' calls.

They are active and agile fliers with undulating flight patterns.

Status

This bird's unpredictable movements make tracking it's status very difficult. The population is thought to have a small decline, and are in danger of becoming threatened if conservation action is not taken.

Gallery

Trivia

  • The Lawrence's Goldfinch was named by John Cassin in 1850 for his colleague George Lawrence, a New York businessman and ornithologist.
  • These finches are also called Jilguero de Lawrence (in Spanish) and Chardonneret gris (in French).
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