Scientific Name: Carduelis psaltria
Pictures: (click for larger images)
Male Lesser Goldfinch. In the UCLA Botanical Garden, March 2005. Female Lesser Goldfinch. In the UCLA Botanical Garden, April 2005. Female Lesser Goldfinch getting a drop to drink at the head of the stream in the UCLA Botanical Garden, March 2005.
A pair of Lesser Goldfinches, female and male, hanging out and munching on some plants close to the ground. In the UCLA Botanical Garden, April 2005.
Lesser Goldfinch Illustration.
-Photos by Jason Finley
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
Description: Small. 3.5"-4.5" in length (beak to tail), smaller than a sparrow. They have black wings with a white stripe or two. The male has a black head, a sort of olive green back, and a bright yellow breast. The female is pale yellow all over (except for wings), sometimes so pale it looks brown.
Sound: The male's song sounds like a high-pitched "deedoo deedoo.... deeyoo." Listen to a Lesser Goldfinch singing! Link is to the sound page for this bird from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's All About Birds.
Commonality/Seasonality: Common year-round.
Location: Pretty much all over campus. From what I've seen they like to be high up in trees. I've also seen them eating out of Bottlebrush trees in the Bombshelter.
Notes: As with other species, once you learn what the Lesser Goldfinch sounds like, you'll be able to find it more easily.
Not as bold as the House Sparrows and House Finches, so you won't be able to get as close to them easily. But that's okay because the male's bright yellow breast, especially in Spring, is an easy identifier.
Historical: Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the "Green-backed Goldfinch" as it was known back then:
This is one of our most charming and friendly little birds. Time and again, as it passed high in air over the bridge, it has responded on the instant to its easily imitatedcall and dropped steeply down almost to hand.
For two seasons it nested in the olive tree beside the east door of the Chemistry Building. The brooding female sat there four feet from the ground and a similar distance from he stream of students going in and out, but quite undisturbed.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.