Tuesday Morning Bird-American Goldfinch

Rose Goldfinch, watercolor on paper

The male American Goldfinch sports beautiful bright yellow plumage in the summer and is not to be confused with the European Goldfinch popularized by the book and movie. Only the males have the sunny yellow color to deflect attention from the more green color of the females. The females are much more difficult to spot as they blend in quite well with the leaves and stems of the flowers. A few years ago, I learned the hard way about how much goldfinches love zinnia seeds. Beside my patio, I planted several varieties of zinnias. The riot of color was wonderful, it was a pleasure to sit out in the mornings checking out the early sun reflecting off the still dew covered petals. Then one day as I came to sit, I noticed the patio was strewn with the multi-colored petals of the zinnias. Checking out the flowers, there were a number of them with the exposed seed cones and none or few petals left. At first I thought the wind was blowing the petals away. But then it was happening on the days when there was no wind. It became a daily occurrence. I set out to solve the mystery!

Goldfinch and zinnia

It took a few days but I finally caught up with the culprits. There was a pair of them, male and female, having a feast off the zinnias. Every time I tried to get a good photo, they were off. A couple of quick evade artists, the two of them were. Eventually, I was able to use my phone to catch them in the act. What a laugh they gave me! Now I try to always plant zinnias for the goldfinches. When I put the photo to the right up on the computer, I noticed his leg position and the zinnia formed a heart. I think he was thanking me for the feast he and his lady were able to enjoy from my garden. When my sweet friend, Christy Tucker, told me about the work she was doing with her organization, Rose Goldfinch, in helping women escape human trafficking, I knew that little goldfinch from the zinnias would be the inspiration for a painting for Christy to help in her work. Maybe that was why the little guy was sending out his heart!

Goldfinch, oil on canvas

The painting for Rose Goldfinch led me to search out more information on the Goldfinch since he became popularized by the book and movie. I confess that I did not make it through the book and did not see the movie. I am a fool for happy endings and sappy chick books. Moody books and movies just don’t make into my brain. Call me chicken but there it is. And the painting that became the inspiration for the book by Donna Tartt, was by 17th Century Dutch artist, Carel Fabritius. The painting appeared to me, to be horribly depressing and after looking it up, I found out why. Fabritius has depicted the common practice at the time of keeping the birds as pets by tethering them by the leg which is the case in the painting. No wonder it is depressing! Here is a story about the history of the painting: “The Secret history behind the Goldfinch painting.” The book received a Pulitzer and by all accounts it is an amazing work of art.

But why the goldfinch? The beautiful little bird of both the American and European varieties appears in folklore as a happy little guy. Some sources say he is symbolic of happiness and friendship. Religious writings say he is a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ. The little bird is also given the significant meaning of indicating a rising from the sick bed. Animals Matter to God gives a detailed description of this important meaning attributed to our little yellow friend. Perhaps the most significant of the Resurrection Symbolism comes from a painting by Raphael called Madonna Del Cardillino or Madonna of the Goldfinch. some sources say a goldfinch flew by Christ at the Crucification.

As a whole the goldfinch is a positive little happy bird who only wants to eat zinnia seeds and sing his little heart out. The beautiful singing the goldfinch is known for became the inspiration for a concerto for flute from the great, Vivaldi. Flute music, to me always reminds of the singing of birds and this concerto is no different. A great way to sit back and relax is to plant some zinnias and turn on Vivaldi and watch the goldfinches feast on the zinnias and sing away. The colorful carpet they created on my patio from the multi colored petals of the flowers were an added source of beauty and enjoyment. It reminds me of the purpose of flower girls in a wedding, spreading carpets of flower petals for the couple to walk on. With zinnias and goldfinches around, colorful carpet and beautiful music will always be present.

The zinnias are over for this year but the goldfinches stay throughout the winter. Their bright yellow feathers turn to a brownish green so they blend with the winter landscape. I have put up the thistle feeder so that the finches can eat all winter too. No petals to spread but at least I can keep watching the happy little guys through the cold months too.

Here is Vivaldi’s concerto: Goldfinch

And here is a comparison of the actual birdsong to Vivaldi’s version. How did he do?

If you would like to make a donation to the work of Rose Goldfinch follow the link to their Facebook page.

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