Lesser Goldfinch, Fernhill Wetlands, Forest Grove, Oregon on 24 November 2010 by Greg Gillson.
The first snowfall of the season--only a quarter inch--caused the Lesser Goldfinches to be extremely unwary. This bird fed at my feet and refused to fly away! My camera lens wouldn't focus any closer!
Lesser Goldfinches usually migrate out of the cold inland portions of the Pacific Northwest. West of the Cascades in Oregon, however, the winters are usually relatively mild at lower elevations, and Lesser Goldfinches spend the winter.
But during some winters there will be periods of days or a week or more of sub-freezing weather. Some birds survive the cold extremely well. Surprisingly, Anna's Hummingbirds seem to make it through a week of freezing weather. Other birds, termed "half-hardy," at the northern edge of their normal winter range, may have difficulty with prolonged cold weather.
A week-long freeze may find Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and other birds down in the grass looking for food. They may die. It seems Lesser Goldfinches can be added to this list. Even this single two-day event seemed to cause Lesser Goldfinches some distress. The goldfinches I found this day seemed to be lethargic, and either sleeping in the rose bushes or feeding on the weed seeds at the road edge without regard for their safety. This is quite a change from their normal hyperactive behavior.
I have previously written about this bird: In the Backyard... Lesser Goldfinch.