Goldfinch on a sunflower in McConnells, South Carolina
© Teresa Kopec/Getty Image
The ‘potato chip bird’. American goldfinch
Birds, bees, and flowers grace today’s photo, but we’re going to bet that potato chips will be what you remember tomorrow. First the basics: We’re in South Carolina looking at a beautiful American goldfinch perched atop a sunflower. While the matching colour scheme makes for a great photo, it’s likely this little bird has stopped for a meal. American goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, preferring grains and seeds, especially sunflower seeds. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see them in neighbourhoods with well-stocked bird feeders. In fact, human activity has generally benefitted American goldfinches overall. The birds thrive in areas where forests have been removed—they prefer open meadows or fields covered in weeds.
The European goldfinch has long been kept as a pet bird, perhaps due to its ability to learn simple tricks. Meanwhile, its American cousin prattles on about potato chips. That’s its signature call. The American goldfinch has several vocalizations but its most common is a twitter that sounds distinctly like it’s calling out ‘po-ta-to-chip, po-ta-to-chip.’ In the birding community, the call is so unique and distinguishable that the American goldfinch is referred to as the ‘potato chip bird.’ Perhaps more interesting, the bird’s flight pattern has been observed to distinctly oscillate, dipping down and back up, over and over, screaming ‘po-ta-to-chip’ on the upswing. So, next time you have a hankering for chips, give a listen for nature’s advertising agent calling out a not-so-subtle message.