American Willow Goldfinch ~ Inviting the Willow Goldfinch
We owe it to the school children. The Willow Goldfinch or the American Willow is the State bird of Washington because the school children wanted it to be so. In a state wide vote in 1951, the school children voted the Willow Goldfinch to become a state symbol of Washington. Washington's Secretary of State writes in State Symbols:
“In 1928, legislators let school children select the state bird and the meadowlark won hands-down. It was a nice choice but seven other states already had chosen the same bird. Another vote was taken in 1931 by the Washington Federation of Women's Clubs. Many birds were nominated, but the goldfinch won handily over the tanager, song sparrow, junco and pileated woodpecker. Now there were two state birds and the Legislature decided to leave the final choice to school children. In 1951, children voted for the goldfinch and the Legislature made it unanimous.”
Habits of the state bird of Washington
Of course no one state can really claim ownership over this migratory bird, because it seeks refuge in many states across the country. However, the main path of the American Willow lies in the central portion of the Washington State, along the Columbia Plateau of the Tri-Cities where the state bird can be seen in healthy numbers.
The Willow Goldfinch rarely alights on the ground, preferring the relative safety of the trees and bushes. But in the Hanford Reach of the Tri-Cities region, the bird is often seen playing on the ground, helping itself to the cool and clean waters of the Columbia River, seeking comfort from the blistering heat of the arid shrub steppes of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland.
The state bird of Washington is bright yellow bird, accented by black feathers on its eyes and wings. As with most other birds, the males of the species have brighter, more vivid plumage to attract females during the mating season. Both the male and female of the Willow Goldfinch have dull plumage in winter. But in the spring, as if in homage to the season, they reveal their bright, happy colors that are so befitting the season of renewal.
Natural Habitat for the American Willow
The Hanford Reach of Tri-Cities provides a sanctuary for the American Willow, along with other migratory birds and animals. In the months of August to November, the Willow Goldfinch can be seen in the famous nature sanctuary of the Hanford Reach, breeding and rearing their young, before flying off to somewhere else.
The American Willow builds its nest in trees and among the bushes of the shrub steppes of Tri-Cities. The birds are very devoted parents to their brood, patiently feeding the helpless chicks with food regurgitated from their mouth. When a predator is sensed nearby, the female American Willow lets out a distress call for the male bird to hear. The male American Willow responds by flying around the area, trying to scare off the would-be predator.
The Hanford Reach of the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland makes an ideal place for the Willow Goldfinch to brood. The warm, blustery weather, abundant water and food source, and the unspoiled, protected wilderness of Hanford Reach provide the Willow Goldfinch with everything it needs to live and flourish.
Among the many natural wonders of the Washington State, the American Willow prefers to breed in the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland because the weather and the landscape of the Tri-Cities offer a uniquely dry, tropical climate, and lush grasslands and shrub-steppes that provide sustenance and protection.
For the residents of Tri-Cities, it is truly a privilege that the state bird of Washington should find haven among their land. Such a privilege carries with it the responsibility of keeping the Tri-Cities wilderness always welcoming to the American Willow and all other wildlife.