Ben here with day two of the VMNH Christmas bird count round-up!

Ben here with day two of the VMNH Christmas bird count round-up!

Ben here with day two of the VMNH Christmas bird count round-up! Here's something unusual that the museum crew spotted at Lake Lanier in Martinsville last week: a house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)!

"Now Ben," you are perhaps saying to yourself, "I see house finches all the time, and this strains the definition of 'unusual.'" Normally I would agree, but this isn't a normal house finch! The plumage of male house finches is usually splotched with red, but this house finch has spots of yellow plumage!

As it turns out, this does happen from time to time. The reason is that plumage coloration is determined by the foods that these birds eat. The red coloration comes from carotenoids, which are pigments that naturally occur in plants. If, for whatever reason, a house finch's diet doesn't contain enough carotenoids, the plumage will be yellow or even orange instead of red. However, when this bird molts and grows new feathers, the new plumage will be red (assuming this house finch starts eating right). #BenInNature

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

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