The Curious Case Of European Birds In The Midwest

I received an email and photos from Debbie Bocock who lives in St. James, MN (Watonwan County – S. Central MN) who had a finch she had never seen before in her yard. She also couldn't find it easily in her field guides. Can you tell what it is? You may have seen one in your local Petsmart.

The bird is a European Goldfinch which is not native to Minnesota or any place in North America--but is legally sold as a pet bird in the United States. Tony Hertzel of the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union Records Committee said, "I know of no accepted records of European Goldfinch in the interior of North America, but then again, I don't keep up on that too much -- I really only track birds for Minnesota and, to a lesser degree, the upper Mississippi states. I have received about 5 reports of this species in the last couple of weeks, suggesting that a second mass release has occurred somewhere nearby."

Tony and I have talked about this before. In May of 2005, a blue tit showed up in Mr. Neil's yard (that's the bird in the above photo). It wasn't banded, (a band would help narrow down if the bird was an "escaped" pet). I still submitted it to the record's committee but it was not accepted because the bird was believed to be released since they are not known to be long distance migrators. It was believed that the bird was an escapee/released bird from somewhere in the Chicago area. Turns out many small European species have been reported from near there and move into nearby states.

I did some digging on ye olde Internet and found a site dedicated to Midwest European Goldfinches (and other odd ball species)--it appears Julie Craves and Rouge River Bird Observatory is trying to track and monitor these birds sitings. So, all you Midwesterners, keep your eyes open for odd ball birds.