Bird Population Studies
American GoldfinchSpinus tristis
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
This handsome little finch, the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington, is welcome and common at feeders, where it takes primarily sunflower and nyjer. Goldfinches often flock with Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls. Spring males are brilliant yellow and shiny black with a bit of white. Females and all winter birds are more dull but identifiable by their conical bill; pointed, notched tail; wingbars; and lack of streaking. During molts they look bizarrely patchy.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Goldfinches are usually easy to find throughout much of North America, except in deep forests. Their po-ta-to-chip flight call is draws attention to them in open country. They’re most abundant in areas with thistle plants, and near feeders.
- Jilguerito Canario (Spanish)
- Chardonneret jaune (French)
To encourage goldfinches into your yard, plant native thistles and other composite plants, as well as native milkweed. Almost any kind of bird feeder may attract American Goldfinches, including hopper, platform, and hanging feeders, and these birds don’t mind feeders that sway in the wind. You’ll also find American Goldfinches are happy to feed on the ground below feeders, eating spilled seeds. They’re most attracted to sunflower seed and nyjer. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the ProjectFeeder Watch's Common Feeder Birds bird list.
To protect American Goldfinches from contagious diseases at feeders, keep the ground well-raked. For more information about keeping feeders clean, see Project FeederWatch’s “Safe Feeding Environment”.
For more information about what to do if you see a sick bird at your feeder, see Project Feeder Watch’s “Diseased Birds”.
- Cool Facts
- American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts its body feathers twice a year, once in late winter and again in late summer. The brightening yellow of male goldfinches each spring is one welcome mark of approaching warm months.
- American Goldfinches breed later than most North American birds. They wait to nest until June or July when milkweed, thistle, and other plants have produced their fibrous seeds, which goldfinches incorporate into their nests and also feed their young.
- Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect.
- When Brown-headed Cowbirds lay eggs in an American Goldfinch nest, the cowbird egg may hatch but the nestling seldom survives longer than three days. The cowbird chick simply can’t survive on the all-seed diet that goldfinches feed their young.
- Goldfinches move south in winter following a pattern that seems to coincide with regions where the minimum January temperature is no colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit on average.
- Paired-up goldfinches make virtually identical flight calls; goldfinches may be able to distinguish members of various pairs by these calls.
- The oldest known American Goldfinch was 10 years 9 months old when it was recaptured and rereleased during a banding operation in Maryland.