Monday 11 August 2008

The Year of the Goldfinch

The goldfinches are so numerous down my way this year that they are easily outnumbering the sparrows. Where the clamorous chattering of house sparrows used to be the characteristic sound of the streets and gardens, now it is the unmistakable liquid twittering of the goldfinches - a soft, non-stop babbling conversation, sweet-toned but unmusical. The goldfinches are everywhere, flying busily from tree to tree, never silent - the perfect counterpoint to the lumbering black crows that seem to be the next most numerous birds around here (not that I'll hear a word against them since reading Mark Cocker's Crow Country). This is good going for the goldfinch, a bird that was on the brink of extinction in Britain at the turn of the 20th century.
The goldfinch, as well as being the subject of one of the most beautiful collective nouns in English - a charm of goldfinches (sadly, its etymology refers only to their sound) - also has the distinction of being the subject of perhaps the greatest bird portrait of all: Fabritius's Goldfinch. That's painting.


  1. I love goldfinches. I always thought there was something special and slightly exotic about them, as if they didn't really belong in drab old England. And I love that picture by Fabritius. It is tantalising to think what he might have achieved, had he lived longer.

  2. Magnificent! I love goldfinches and I get a lot of them at one of my bird feeders. I think they're lovely little birds. We also get other types of finches, and there's a greenish one that I really find beautiful.

    Great painting, too. Audubon ain't got nuttin' on him!

  3. Nige, if you have Birds of the Wayside and Woodland then page 61 is interesting.
    No Goldfinches in these parts but as compensation we have Goldcrest. No sympathy with the crows, just aim the artillery at them.

  4. Darn - I don't have Birds of the Wayside and Woodland. Lovely book too...