Warbler or Finch ID

I live in Central Austin, and I saw a bird at my bird bath yesterday that I can’t find in my bird book. Looks like some kind of warbler? Just a teensy bit smaller than a Carolina chickadee. Black top with white bars on the tips of the wings so that when the wings are folded, the white bars on are on its lower back. Bright yellow underside. Head is black above the beak, yellow below. No different coloring around the eyes. It’s almost as if someone drew a horizontal line and colored the top a rich, saturated black and the bottom a bright, bright yellow.
The closest bird in my book it resembles is the Canada warbler, except he’s very black on top instead of gray, doesn’t have the color around his eye, and has the wing bars. Any ideas?

American Goldfinch?

Nope. Solid black back (except for the white bars at the wing tips).

Magnolia warbler?


Nope. Solid black back, solid yellow belly.

It’s not a Baltimore Oriole, is it?

Gray-crowned yellowthroat?

Doesn’t seem likely, but I can’t come up with anything else that’s very dark on top, yellow on bottom, yellow chin, and white wing tips.

Not the Baltimore oriole. No black on the throat, a smaller beak, and a more petite build. Doesn’t look like the gray-crowned yellowthroat either from what I saw on Google; they had light-colored backs. Any chance this is a migratory bird not usually seen around here perhaps?

It’s the black-backed form of the Lesser Goldfinch. In the US it’s found mostly in Texas. Green-backed forms occur elsewhere in the western US.

Another image.

Yes! That’s it! Or pretty darn close. I don’t remember yellow beneath the eyes and the beak looked smaller, but everything else looks right, so that must be it! Thanks!

Heh…if Colibri answers a bird question, he’s almost always right.

They can be a little variable in the extent of black (and maybe bill size too). I’m not sure the source of the photo I linked to. This photo was taken in Austin and shows more extensive black.
By the way, which bird guide are you using?

Yep, that photo looks just right. I’m using A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies from The Peterson Field Guide Series. I just took an interest in birding, and this is kind of a starter book for me. No lesser goldfinches inside. :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course they’re variable: they’re individuals after all.

So, exactly how much variability in the amount of black do you think the species typically shows?

Many species are fairly variable in some characteristics, and less variable in others. Different forms of Lesser Seedeater vary substantially in the amount of black on the back, as the photos I linked to illustrate. They vary less in other characteristics, such as eye color, or the intensity of yellow color on the underparts.

Congratulations - I predict you’ll enjoy it.

One thing to note early is that sorting out small birds is usually best done by first concentrating on the head, starting with the beak. To take the present example, the beak of this bird strongly suggests finch, or some sort of seed-eater - it definitely isn’t a typical warbler beak (which are almost always finer).