Algae-eating goldfinches

The creek by the bog at the southeast corner of Bond Lake has been a hopping place for birds lately. One reason is that the berries on the pokeweeds are ripe. Catbirds, thrashers, and mocking birds can’t seem to resist the berries. Other birds find them irresistable, too.  Another reason for this location being a birding hotspot is the vegetation. Thick, tall weeds line both sides of the creek, which extends through the bog and on to the lake. The bog itself is a huge, square area full of vegetation that people can’t get to. Birds love that.

This morning, I saw something strange. A small flock of 8 American goldfinches was huddled around a rock at the creek’s edge. Because it’s so dry, the rock, which had been submerged in the creek, was now exposed, and it was covered with green, slimy algae. And the birds were picking at it, and actually picking up strands of the stringy algae and eating it. It was odd to see two or three of these birds with spaghetti-like strands of algae hanging from their bills.

One birder suspects that the algae may contain carotenoids, which these birds need to yellow up their feathers. It’s an interesting theory, and perhaps we’ll learn more about this behavior as more information is provided to me.


About birdingatbond

I love birding! And I live near Fred G. Bond Metro Park in Cary, NC.
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