Cardueline finches ( a subfamily of the family Fringillidae ) that includes Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are very gregarious in all seasons. Their feeding flocks are based on social dominance. Usually the males dominate the females, except during the breeding season, when the females dominate the males for a short time. More species might benefit from such an approach. Cardueline finches are known to roam and do not have regular migration patterns and cycles. Their patterns of movement and their numbers thus fluctuate greatly each year. According to Laura Erickson in her fine book For the Birds says that “goldfinches wander in huge flocks in winter, and may be abundant in one location in a given year and completely absent the next.” Although very rare at my feeder in winter they do come to visit each quite regularly summer.
When I first saw these birds I could not figure out what they were. This is not unusual for I am incompetent birder at the best of times. But I suspected it was a youth. Then I deduced it was a goldfinch because there were adult males and females around and this looked a bit like hte parent. So I thought it must be immature goldfinch. Even then I had to check with someone who actually knows something about birds, my brother-in-law Harv Lane, who confirmed I was right.
These really are spectacular birds, particularly, the males, of course.