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Word of the Week: Granivore
November 27, 2020 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Granivore [GRA-nuh-vohr] (noun): Any animal that eats seeds as the main part of its diet.

With their undulating flight patterns, bright yellow feathers, and sweet “potato chip” call, American Goldfinches are a High Park favourite. These amazing birds are granivores as they eat seeds almost exclusively. The main types include seeds from plants in the Asteraceae family like, sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc. They will also feed on seeds from grasses, goldenrod, and trees like alder, birch, and elm. At feeders, they prefer nyjer seeds or black oil sunflower seeds.

As temperatures cool down, it gets a little more challenging for us to spot American Goldfinches in High Park. It might surprise you to learn that it isn’t because they have migrated south. In fact, American Goldfinches will stick around in High Park for the entire winter! What makes them trickier to spot are their cold season feathers.

Starting in September, and continuing for 6-8 weeks, male American Goldfinches will molt all of their feathers, ending up with a completely fresh new set of feathers that are dull in colour (almost white) as they head into the winter. This is especially helpful for camouflaging in a snowy landscape. Once spring comes around, they will once again grow new body feathers, as the males take on their iconic bright yellow breeding plumage, but the wing and tail feathers remain from the previous fall. Over time, these pale yellowish-beige coloured wing feathers will fade to white and disintegrate, so that by the end of the summer the wings look essentially all black. And in September another complete molt begins.

Keep and eye out for American Goldfinches on your next visit to High Park!

FUN FACT: American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts its body feathers twice a year

Resources:
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/overview
https://www.sibleyguides.com/2012/05/the-annual-plumage-cycle-of-a-male-american-goldfinch/

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