Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A bird’s blessing

The American Goldfinch is a patient bird, at least when it comes to building a home and raising a family.

Each season, goldfinches are among the last of our birds to establish nests. Most others already have fledglings – you can hear them now, squeaking and whining at their parents to feed them. But goldfinches are just getting their nest work underway.

Why? The goldfinch seems to time its domestic duties to the season of the thistles, those prickly wildflowers most people hate. Early thistles are just now going to seed, producing the super-soft down that is so opposite the thorns that bedeck the plants. Goldfinches love thistle down as a material for lining their nests.

After the eggs have hatched, thistles provide their second benefit: Food. Goldfinches are mostly seed-eaters and they delay raising a family with a bunch of hungry mouths to feed – until mid-summer when the season of seeds is well underway. Probably their favorite seed is the thistle.

“Cursed is the ground because of you,” God told Adam in the Garden of Eden. “Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” Clearly, a man’s curse can be a bird’s blessing.

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