Common Name: American
photo Ivan Andrijevic
American Goldfinch are passerines in the
Fringillidae family which groups them together with
Finches. The American Goldfinch is a common and widely
distributed species in temperate North America. They are
dichromatic which means that males and females have
different appearances. Males are bright yellow with a
black cap and wings with white wing bars. They have a
white rump and undertail coverts. Female American
Goldfinches have greenish upperparts and yellow
underparts. Both sexes have a short conical bill that is
used to eating seeds.
photo Michael Noonan
American Goldfinches are very common perching birds.
They winter in the southern United States and northern Mexico, breed
in central Canada and are found year-round in nearly all of the
United States. American Goldfinches prefer weedy and grassy fields
that are characteristic of early successional growth. They are also
found near roadsides, orchards and cultivated lands. They are found
year-round in the WNY area.
American Goldfinches eat the seeds of many annual
plants. They prefer Composites and small seeds of various trees such
as: alder, birch, cedar and elm. They are very commonly seen at
birdfeeders and prefer black thistle but will eat sunflower seeds.
American Goldfinches will only eat insects if they are enountered.
Goldfinches have a monogamous mating system and
usually have 2 broods per season. Males will show a song-flight on
level flight, rather than typical undulating flight, and will
rapidly flap his wings. The female builds a cup shaped nest in a
fork in tree branches. It is woven so tightly that it can often hold
water. Females will lay 4-6 pale blue eggs and incubate them for
10-12 days. Asynchronous hatching progresses as breeding season
continues. Young are altricial when hatched which means they are
helpless, blind and immobile. Both parents will care for young until
they are ready to fledge which is about 11-17 days after hatching.
American Goldfinches are often victims of brood parasitism by the
The mnemonic for the song of the American Goldfinch
is described as po-ta-to-chip.
Where to see
American Goldfinches are fairly common in
parks and backyards around WNY. They are very abundant
in Forest Lawn Cemetery and Tift Nature Preserve.