American Goldfinches

Wild Bird Profiles-American Goldfinches

American Goldfinches

Scientific name: Carduelis tristis

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Fringillidae

Characteristics: The American goldfinch is a sexually dimorphic finch (during the breeding season). Males are bright yellow with black and white wings and a black cap.  Females are a dull, olive color with brownish-black wings and no black cap.  During the winter, goldfinch males molt into a similar plumage to females but are more yellowish-brown and have bright patches on the upper part of their wings.

Distribution: American goldfinches are abundant throughout central and northern U.S. and southern Canada. Some populations are migratory and are found as far south as the Gulf slope of Mexico. They are often found flocking in large numbers at feeders.

Movement: Goldfinches migrate from May-June and November-December. Wintering goldfinches are thought to be nomadic but may be strongly dependent on resources and weather.

Food: Goldfinches will eat a variety of annual plants, such as the seeds of alder, birch, and cedar trees. They prefer to forage at feeders. Because of their small bill size, goldfinches prefer nyger or thistle seeds but will also use black-oil sunflower seeds.  Thistle seeds can be presented in a disposable “sock” or in a tube feeder appropriate for small seeds. Sunflower seeds are preferentially presented in tube feeders but other types of feeders will also be used. Sound: American goldfinches have a variety of songs. The most common “contact call” is a song that sounds like “po-ta-to-chip” with one higher note and three lower notes. The male song consists of a variety of phrases that are extremely variable.

Nesting: Eggs and nestlings are found between July-Sept. although goldfinches are typically on their breeding grounds far before they start to nest. Eggs are typically a pale blue or white. Spots have been reported, but are rare.

Similar species: Males do not look the same as any other species, but females are similar to Lesser goldfinches and Lawrence’s goldfinches. A. goldfinches are larger and have a different tail pattern (L & L have white spots in the center of their tails).

Interesting fact: American goldfinch males acquire their breeding plumage in the spring, but are late nesters.  They do not breed until August, which is much later than most passerines. The early breeding plumage may be involved in early pair bonds, but remains relatively unknown. Also, goldfinches LOVE using birdbaths! To increase your chance of attracting goldfinches to your backyard, just add water.

About the Author: Chantelle Voss is the Owner of and a birding enthusiast. Your Bird Oasis will help you transform your garden into your own bird oasis with a variety of beautiful Bird Baths, Bird Feeders, and Bird Houses to choose from. With exquisite artistic Bird Bath Fountains, Bird Bath Bowls, Decorative Bird Feeders at your convenience, you can add a unique touch to your garden and create a haven for the birds in your area.

©Male photo by Gale Verhague. Female photo – photographer unknown.|