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Lesser Goldfinch

Spinus psaltria ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: FRINGILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Jabbering clouds of yellow, green, and black Lesser Goldfinches gather in scrubby oak, cottonwood, and willow habitats of the western U.S., or visit suburban yards for seeds and water. These finches primarily eat seeds of plants in the sunflower family, and they occur all the way south to the Peruvian Andes. Listen closely to their wheezy songs, which often include snippets from the songs of other birds.

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Songs

The male’s breeding song is a jumble of clear notes mixed in with wheezes, trills, and stutters, lasting up to 10 seconds. Males incorporate snippets of the songs of many other species, including Ash-throated Flycatchers, Verdins, Curve-billed Thrashers, American Kestrels, Western Scrub-Jays, and many more.

Calls

When mingling in a flock, Lesser Goldfinches make a very common contact call that’s wheezy and descending, given one or two notes at a time. They also give a couple of chit notes in flight. Males give a descending tee-yer call to females during courtship.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Lesser Goldfinches readily come to feeders along with other finches such as American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins. These small finches eat many kinds of seeds from the sunflower family, including the thin-hulled seeds of nyjer thistle.

Find This Bird

Look for Lesser Goldfinches among large flocks of birds at feeder stations, and near the tops of taller trees in scrubby habitats. The all-black cap on the Lesser is a good clue to distinguishing among mixed goldfinch groups. Also keep an eye out for bright yellow birds in weedy fields clinging to the top of thistle plants that have gone to seed.

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