Weedy fields, open floodplains, and other overgrown areas, particularly with sunflower, aster, and thistle plants for food and some shrubs and trees for nesting. Goldfinches are also common in suburbs, parks, and backyards.Back to top
Goldfinches eat seeds almost exclusively. Main types include seeds from composite plants (in the family Asteraceae: sunflowers, thistle, asters, etc.), grasses, and trees such as alder, birch, western red cedar, and elm. At feeders prefers nyjer and sunflower.Back to top
Male and female move around together to choose a suitable nest site. The female builds the nest, usually in a shrub or sapling in a fairly open setting rather than in forest interior. The nest is often built high in a shrub, where two or three vertical branches join; usually shaded by clusters of leaves or needles from above, but often open and visible from below.
The nest is an open cup of rootlets and plant fibers lined with plant down, often woven so tightly that it can hold water. The female lashes the foundation to supporting branches using spider silk, and makes a downy lining often using the fluffy “pappus” material taken from the same types of seedheads that goldfinches so commonly feed on. It takes the female about 6 days to build the nest. The finished nest is about 3 inches across on the outside and 2-4.5 inches high.
|Clutch Size:||2-7 eggs|
|Number of Broods:||1-2 broods|
|Egg Length:||0.6-0.7 in (1.62-1.69 cm)|
|Egg Width:||0.5-0.5 in (1.22-1.28 cm)|
|Incubation Period:||12-14 days|
|Nestling Period:||11-17 days|
|Egg Description:||Pale bluish white, sometimes with small faint brown spots around large end.|
|Condition at Hatching:||Helpless, with wisps of grayish down.|
American Goldfinches are active, acrobatic finches that balance on the seedheads of thistles, dandelions, and other plants to pluck seeds. They have a bouncy flight during which they frequently make their po-ta-to-chip calls. Although males sing exuberantly during spring, pairs do not nest until mid-summer, when thistles and other weeds have gone to seed. Goldfinches do not join other songbirds mobbing predators.Back to top
American Goldfinches are common, but their numbers decreased by an estimated 0.6% per year between 1966 and 2019 for a cumulative decline of 27%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 44 million and rates them 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, indicating a species of low conservation concern.Back to top
Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. (2020). Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2020. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2020.
McGraw, Kevin J. and Alex L. Middleton. (2017). American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), version 2.1. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.
Partners in Flight. (2020). Avian Conservation Assessment Database, version 2020.
Sauer, J. R., D. K. Niven, J. E. Hines, D. J. Ziolkowski Jr., K. L. Pardieck, J. E. Fallon, and W. A. Link (2019). The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966–2019. Version 2.07.2019. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA.
Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley Guide to Birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA.