American Goldfinch


Common Name: American Goldfinch

Class:  Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Fringillidae

Genus: Carduelis

Species: Carduelis tristis

Photo: Ivan Andrijevic




American Goldfinch are passerines in the Fringillidae family which means they are related to other finch species. 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 plumages. Males during the summer are bright yellow with a black cap and wings with white wing bars. They have a white rump and undertail coverts. During the winter males will loose much of their yellow color and start to look more like a female finch. Female American Goldfinches have a greenish mantle and pale yellow chest. Both sexes have a short conical bill that is used for eating seeds.


Photo: M. 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 Western New York. American Goldfinches prefer weedy and grassy fields that are characteristic of early successional growth. They are also found near roadsides, orchards and cultivated lands. American Goldfinches eat the seeds of many annual plants such as the thistle plant. 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 encountered.



Photo: M. Noonan




Goldfinches have a monogamous mating system and usually have 1 brood per season but some pairs infrequently have 2 broods. During the mating season males will perform a song-flight while rapidly flapping his wings to attract a female. After mating the female builds a cup shaped nest in a fork of tree branches. This nest 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 Brown-headed Cowbird.


Photo: M. Noonan




American Goldfinches are widespread, permanent residents throughout Western New York and are most often seen in backyards that contain thistle feeders and some cover. These birds are commonly found near towns and cities but become less common when there are large unbroken forests.


Photo: M. Noonan


Birds of Western New York is brought to you by the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.