Background Switcher (Hidden)

Don't Dress Up a Goldfinch

Monday, October 9, 2017

When I first put the goldfinch with the broken coracoid in her small recovery cage, I had a couple of jar lids on its floor. One had a mix of thistle, millet, cracked corn, black oil sunflower, and hulled sunflower chips. The other had water. I went back to my work and kept my ears cocked for the sound of a finch cracking seeds. I prayed this juvenile goldfinch would be developmentally ready to pick up her own food. This would greatly improve her chances of healing. Imagine if I had to catch her and force-feed her several times daily. The damage that broken coracoid could sustain if she fluttered and tried to escape each time I reached in the cage could queer the whole healing process. The big problem with rehabilitating finches is that tiny, slippery, conical beak. Combined with her strong, seed-cracking masseter muscles, a conical beak is real trouble for a rehabber. First, because of those strong jaw muscles, if she wants to keep that beak closed, it’s by God staying closed. Second, its shape and the slippery ramphotheca makes it all but impossible to pry open. You can’t get purchase on a conical beak, and she certainly wouldn’t trust me enough to open her bill for me to feed her. So if she was still being fed by her parents at the time of her window collision (which she almost certainly was), and she was as yet unable pick up any of her own food, we were in a real pickle.

 Finally I heard her hop down to the cage floor and saw her pecking at her food. Oh, thank the Lord. She was na├»ve, though, and still didn’t know how to process anything other than hulled sunflower chips. That’s OK. A diet of straight sunflower chips wouldn’t hurt her for two weeks. Big exhale.

Cutting legroom out of the wrap.

 I spent a lot of time thinking about the hurt goldfinch and coming up with her cool little glove-finger wrap. She spent a lot of time thinking about it, too. Then she spent a lot of time doing something about it.  From the moment I put her back in her cage, she was working to undo my neat little fix. She started at the turtleneck and worked, worked, worked at the yarn.  She barely stopped to eat. She’d grab a sunflower chip and go back to work, unraveling my awesome comfy wrap. She never ordered a wrap! She was sending it back.

Thinking back, I should have expected this. This is not a warbler, who picks insects off the undersides of leaves. This is a finch, who tears plant material apart to get at the seeds. She’s got mad mechanical skills. Goldfinches rip into prickly grass and thistle heads, digging until they find the seed. Shredding a soft woolen wrap was nothing for her. By the end of the first day, she’d shredded it so well that it she got her feet tangled in it, too, and she was immobilized on the cage floor. Oh well. All of you who praised my ingenuity, now please laugh with me. 

Goldfinch, you’re on your own here. I’ll keep you as quiet as I can, and you can rest and heal without intervention. 


Lessons learned! She is a beauty, and you are a patient, kindhearted healer. I hope the two of you found a way to a healing success story. I can't wait to read the next installment.

Maybe it served a purpose in forcing her to use that bill as it's meant to be used?


I always chuckle at the fledglings who beg to be fed at the feeder; it seems so obvious that the food is right at their feet... why do they need to be fed by a parent? It seems so silly without considering that they might not be "ready" to take that step in their development. What makes it happen, though? Is it a matter of dexterity, like with toddlers?

Jeez--send me running off to the dictionary (OK, so I "googled" it)-- ramphotheca !
Wish I could play that in Scrabble.

I'm breathless with anticipation, awaiting the next installment!

(Maybe it wasn't the turtleneck, precisely, that she objected to, but the style a/o color. Like Murr said previously -- white after Labor Day? Perhaps little goldfinch is a stickler about things like that.)

Posted by Anonymous October 10, 2017 at 3:38 AM

I love how she was so calm and pliant as you put on the sweater, while secretly hatching her plan to remove it. Trial and error, but at least you tried.

Okay, I've been laughing and also loving your carefully crafted words -- cage could queer, can't get purchase. Your writing is always music to my ears. And the stories and lessons for all of us are priceless. Thank you! Cheering on you and the goldfinch, Kim in PA

[Back to Top]