Do you recognize the strange bird at your feeder? Over the past few months, a certain bright-yellow backyard visitor, one you thought moved on for the winter actually just changed his feathers. Like many songbirds, the American Goldfinch molts before wintertime. He’s one of few songbirds, however, that emerge from the process looking like a very different bird.

Every so often, the things we use quite often need replacing, whether it’s a toothbrush or a set of tires. Many songbirds molt their feathers up to twice a year for the same reason — after weeks and even months of use, it’s just time for a fresh set. Most songbirds do a complete molt in the late summer, while some molt in the spring.

After the fall molt American Goldfinch males exchange their bright yellow feathers for a more muted, yellowish-brown set. Gone, too, are their black “masks.” When you see these bright yellow birds back at your feeder, it’s a sure sign that spring has arrived!

It’s easy to spot the changing hues of the American Goldfinch in the fall and spring — if you know what to look for. Fill your tube feeder with Lyric Finch Mix, which features plenty of fresh, high-quality Nyjer Seed, which finches love. It also features other favorites well-suited for their small beaks, including canary seed and sunflower kernels.

In winter, American Goldfinches are drab brown. iStock/Getty Images Plus