Common Name: American
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.
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
Photo: M. Noonan