Goldfinch and woolly aphids

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Jim Kirker
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Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby Jim Kirker » Fri Dec 14, 2018 10:30 pm

A week or so ago I was puzzled to see a goldfinch with a woolly tuft on its upper bill. The bird was perched on a dead conifer branch with woolly aphids at its feet, suggesting it had brought the aphids there from somewhere else. It kept wiping the sides of its bill against a branch, missing the moustache-like tuft. Then a few days later I saw a goldfinch pecking at a woolly aphid in a nearby pittosporum. They are known to feed small invertebrates to their young. I didn't see a nest, but was not really looking for one.
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les
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Re: Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby les » Sun Dec 16, 2018 12:04 pm

they could be using it as a nest lining material?thistledown and cobwebs I have seen being collected.
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Neil Fitzgerald
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Re: Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby Neil Fitzgerald » Tue Feb 26, 2019 8:36 am

That doesn't quite look like aphids to me. More like a seed of some sort.
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Steps
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Re: Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby Steps » Tue Feb 26, 2019 11:32 am

Agree looks more like a seed.
Nearly 30yrs ago when we 1st started our urban gardens from scratch.. coming up to christmas, everything was being decimated by wool aphids.. tried all the natural remedies...plus few others
So in desperation , that christmas eve, out with the hose attachment spray and a systematic insecticide...
Hurt the population instantly and over the next few weeks...
Garden recovered over the next growing seasons.
Following yr, a bit of shall we, shall we not.. didnt.

The birds, from sparrows , thrushes, blackbirds, fan tails etc started their invasion...
Then for the next near on 3 decades.. populations of bad insects kept very well under control. The more the birds controlled the more the trees and scrubs grew, and self seeded... the more insects , the more birds nested, including tui.
All that was required a generous sprinkle of snail pellets each 1st full moon of spring and thru to autumn.
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Jim Kirker
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Re: Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby Jim Kirker » Tue Feb 26, 2019 1:34 pm

The wool appeared to have stuck to the bird's bill and I think this would favour aphids because seeds seem to be either woolly for air dispersal or sticky or burred for dispersal by animals. I couldn't confidently exclude mealy bugs though. A few days later a goldfinch was pecking at woolly material in a nearby pittosporum, which are known to be infested by aphids and mealy bugs. I think the bird in the photo took aphids/mealy bugs from the pittosporum to the conifer, either by accident or design.

I did a brief search before originally posting and found to my eye convincing similarity to photos of woolly aphids.
https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=wooll ... DA#imgrc=_

European Goldfinches are known to eat a variety of insects, including aphids.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10. ... ode=temu20
I did not access the whole article, but the Google link includes the following "Since its introduction to Australia the European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis has spread throughout much .... Table Ill it is clear that aphids were the most com-. "

There is a photo of a goldfinch eating aphids on a plum tree, although admittedly no sign of any wool.
https://www.hbw.com/ibc/photo/european- ... ing-aphids
Jan
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Re: Goldfinch and woolly aphids

Postby Jan » Wed Mar 06, 2019 2:33 pm

Goldfinches are one of the cardueline finches, which feed their nestlings on a mucus bound ball of crushed seeds and very few insects. In fact they can breed during periods when insects are absent which is a rare thing in a passerine, I think your bird has sticky stuff from pittosporum fruit mixed up with some woolly seeds.

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