American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch - Breeding Male

American Goldfinch
(Spinus tristis)

Order:  Passeriformes
Family:  Fringillidae

American Goldfinch - Breeding Male
Photo © Rck953

American Goldfinch Information

Length:  4.5 - 5 "

Habitat:  Weedy fields, open areas with scattered trees, woodland edges, roadsides, thickets, shrubby wetlands, residential areas with trees.

Diet:  Seeds of grasses and trees; thistle, ragweed, and dandelion seeds; buds; some berries and insects.

  Song and calls of the American Goldfinch

 American Goldfinch Nesting and Breeding

Photo of American Goldfinch pair at nest

Photo of American Goldfinch at nest with young

Interesting Facts about the
American Goldfinch
  • The American Goldfinch is one of the latest songbirds to begin nesting. In New England, breeding usually occurs in the late summer. Since thistle down is commonly used for nest building, breeding typically coincides with the time when thistles produce their seed.
  • Goldfinches are usually monogamous for each breeding season, but will change mates from one year to the next.
  • This bird can be recognized, not only by its bright yellow summer plumage, but also by its roller coaster-like flight. Each time it dips downward, it sings its "per-chick-o-ree" song.
  • Goldfinches are highly gregarious and will usually flock together during the nonbreeding season. They are often joined by Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, and American Tree Sparrows.

American Goldfinch - Breeding Female

American Goldfinch - Female

By J. Benson via CC

American Goldfinch
Identification Tips

  • Small, seed-eating bird
  • Short, conical bill
  • Short, forked tail
Male (breeding)
  • Plumage held in Spring and Summer
  • Black forehead
  • Yellow head, back, breast and belly
  • Black wings and tail
  • White wing bars and tertial edges
  • White rump and undertail coverts
  • White rump and undertail coverts
  • Pale bill and legs
Female (breeding)
  • Greenish upperparts
  • Yellow underparts
  • Pale bill and legs
Basic (non-breeding)
  • Plumage held in Fall and Winter
  • Yellow face
  • Brownish-olive upperparts
  • Whitish underparts
  • Blackish wings with pale wing bars

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

American Goldfinch
Breeding Bird Survey Map,

American Goldfinch Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

American Goldfinch
Range Maps from Cornell

American Goldfinch breeding, nonbreeding, and year-round range

Includes separate map of sightings.

American Goldfinch
Christmas Bird Count Map

Historical CBC Map from USGS