Time to Get Out the Winter Clothes

In spring, the arrival of brilliant yellow American goldfinches is a welcome sign that warmer temperatures are on their way. In fall, on their return flight, so to speak, their stopovers are bittersweet reminders that winter is now just around the corner.

A female goldfinch at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo

American goldfinches only sport this bright yellow plumage for breeding season, from roughly March to October. They will soon be molting, changing into more subdued, gray, wintery plumage. (The males will no longer sport their dashing black caps either.) The goldfinches’ wardrobe change is a signal that it might be time to get our winter clothes out of storage too…

Two male goldfinches at Nature Boardwalk. Their black caps will soon fade, only to return next spring.

These birds seem to find plenty of seeds to eat at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. We’ve been occasionally seeing them throughout the summer, but an influx has occurred with fall migration.

Goldfinches are picky eaters; they are almost exclusively “seed-ivores.” Even the young are fed a strict diet of seeds from various plants, including thistle. Luckily for us city-dwellers, the goldfinch’s penchant for seeds makes them common visitors to bird feeders, where they stock up on sunflower seeds and the like.

Come down to Nature Boardwalk to see if you can spot one of these still colorful birds on their migratory route south, before they molt into their winter colors!

Vicky Hunt


Hi Brian and Vicky,

As I passed through the Nature Boardwalk today, I saw many of the trees on the southeast side of the pond being cut down. There are two dead trees in that area, but the other trees removed appeared to be healthy, including a very large old tree at the top of the hill. I also noticed several trees being aggressively trimmed yesterday as well.

As you know, we are entering peak bird migration season and the pond and surrounding areas are a refuge for birds as they pass through Chicago. It's concerning that a viable portion of this habitat is being removed.

Is there a specific reason for the removal of what appear to be healthy trees in an area committed to fostering a natural wildlife habitat?

Thank you,


Beth, these changes are part of a continuing effort to expand the natural landscape at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. The area around the Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is being transformed into a black oak savanna, a native plant community that will provide key ecosystem resources for local species.

Many of the healthy looking trees that are being removed are actually unstable in the site's sandy soil. The new plantings will be better for wildlife and visitors alike.

Thanks so much for your response, Brian. I really appreciate it.

It's reassuring to learn that there is continued and careful consideration for the longterm health and wellbeing of this area. I look forward to seeing the black oak savanna as it grows.

Thanks again,


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