Finches are frequent visitors to the backyard feeder, but goldfinches are a rare sight.
I suppose it might be called "goldfinch envy." It's not terribly serious, but recently I find myself asking people if they get goldfinches in their garden.
I should explain. I live in Glasgow, Scotland. So if we were to encounter a goldfinch, it would be the irresistible European type . This diminutive bird is a stunner colorwise. It is not just canary yellow and black like some goldfinches. Its head, starting from the front, is bright red – a brilliant scarlet mask sometimes called a "blaze" – then farther back it has white cheeks and then a black crown and side-stripes. Its black wings have a wide, bright yellow bar on them. Its back is brown, its breast is buff, and its belly white. No wonder it is a favorite of photographers, artists, and birdwatchers.
My first goldfinch-awareness was in the 1970s, country-living in Yorkshire (England). I vividly recall more than once driving to the nearest small town and seeing a sudden upflight of dozens of goldfinches from a hedgerow: a wonderful sight.
Later I learned that flocking is a goldfinch habit – they benefit from feeding gregariously – and that someone had come up with a collective noun to describe the phenomenon: They'd called it a "charm." It turns out that this appropriate term is not a recent invention. It can be found in the late 15th-century "Boke of St Albans," as one item in a long list of collective nouns for animals and birds. There it is: "a cherme of goldfynches."
"Cherme," according to later wisdom, may have referred to the song of a flock of goldfinches rather than to their fascinating appearance flying en masse. A recent field guide describes the bird's song as "sweet tinkling." Multiply that by a hundred!