Earlier this summer my father mentioned he saw a strange bird
on his thistle feeder, a "goldfinch with a very long beak." My
dad is 80 years old and is not overly observant, so I couldn't
get any more details. He saw it again a few days later and
was able to snap a poor photo through double-paned glass with
a pocket camera. He sent me a print and, sure enough, there
appeared a poor but nonetheless discernable image of this
bird. There were no "real" goldfinches on the feeder at the
same time for size reference, but the mystery bird seems
about the size of a goldfinch, perhaps slightly larger. In
conformity it appears finch-like except for the long,
slightly decurved, pointed bill. The body is mosty yellow
with some obvious barring on darker wings. While it does
not have the breeding black cap of a male, it seems to have
some black around the base of the bill. The bill itself,
the feature of interest here, is about as long as the head
itself is (front-to-back), is notably decurved, and pointed.
It is light-colored.
The bird was observed and photographed in Lewiston, Idaho
about two months ago.
My best guess would be this is some sort of escaped exotic that
just happens to resemble a goldfinch, but also seems to travel
with them. I asked Dad if he ever saw it trying to eat seeds
from the thistle feeder (plastic with upright-style perch stems)
but he cannot recall seeing it feed. I asked him if he ever saw
it using the nearby "upside down-style" feeder, but he never
saw the bird on that feeder.
I haven't gone through my Asian field guides, but the bill reminds
be of a honeycreeper or bee eater.
An alternative theory would be it is a goldfinch with some sort
of freak mutation of the bill, but I wouldn't think such a bird
would live long in the wild trying to eat tiny seeds.
I plan to have dad take the negative to a photoshop for
digitization, so I can e-mail this to those who are interested.
So, anyone ever heard of abnormal bill growth in finches? Or
know af any likely escaped exotics?
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