American Goldfinch

Carduelis tristis

Bill Dunn, Huntley Meadows Park

The American Goldfinch is a small bird, growing up to five inches long. The males, in breeding season, are the easiest to identify, because they are bright yellow with black and white markings. In the Winter, the males lose their bright yellow feathers and become dull brown. They keep the black and white markings though. Females are dull year-round.

American Goldfinches live in brushy thickets, weedy fields, gardens, and roadsides. Since they eat mostly seeds from grasses and wildflowers, they tend to stay where there are a lot of these food sources.

Copyright, Mike Danzenbaker, www.avesphoto.com

Copyright, Dr. Dan Sudia

Male goldfinches get their bright yellow feathers in the Spring, but these birds don't breed until late Summer. The female builds the nest, which includes materials such as: weeds, vines, catkins, grass, wood fibers, spider silk, and caterpillar webs. They also use down (fluffy stuff) from thistles, milkweed, and cattails. Sometimes, goldfinches take parts from other birds' nest to use for their own.

Goldfinches usually nest in a dense shrub or pine tree.

American Goldfinches lay four or five pale blue eggs, and the female incubates (sits on) them while the male hunts for food. Baby finches hatch in about two weeks. In another two weeks, they will take their first flight.

Copyright, Peter LaTourrette, http://birdphotography.com

Copyright, R. W. Scott, Birds in Flight

American Goldfinches are interesting to observe while they eat, because they have great balance and can perch on any stem while twisting their bodies to get to seeds or fruit. Some of their foods include: thistles, ragweed, dandelions, mullein, American Elm, Eastern Redcedar, grasses, sunflowers, and Evening Primrose. They also eat some insects, including caterpillars and galls (fly or wasp larvae).

Predators of American Goldfinches include snakes, squirrels, Blue Jays, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and cats.

Brown-headed Cowbirds lay their eggs in goldfinch nests, but the babies almost always die because they don't get enough food.

Huntley Meadows Park

American Goldfinches are very sociable, and you will often see several pairs together at the same time. Goldfinches migrate with the change of seasons, but here in Virginia they stay year-round.

Additional Media

Description
Type
Credit
American Goldfinch Song
Sound
Unknown
American Goldfinch Female
Video
Greg Gough
American Goldfinches
Video
Phil Heine
American Goldfinch Coloring Page
Link to Printable Page
EnchantedLearning.com
Download Quicktime if you are unable to play video

Relationships in Nature:

PREY/FOOD
PREDATORS
SHELTER
OTHER

Bull Thistle

Black Rat Snake

Eastern White Pine

Black and Yellow Argiope SP

Common Ragweed

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Witch Hazel

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth SP

Common Dandelion

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Redcedar

Painted Lady SP

Eastern Redcedar

Blue Jay

Sassafras

Brown-headed Cowbird Pa

Smooth Crabgrass

Barred Owl

Virginia Pine

Green Hawthorn D

Switchgrass

Copperhead

Smooth Sumac

Common Mullein

Loblolly Pine

American Elm

Spicebush

Evening Primrose

Greenbrier

Eastern Tent Caterpillar Moth

Poison Ivy

Goldenrod Gall Fly

Wild Grape

Eastern White Pine

Trumpet Creeper

Loblolly Pine

Smooth Crabgrass

Virginia Pine

Switchgrass

European Gypsy Moth

Bull Thistle

Japanese Honeysuckle

Common Milkweed

Green Hawthorn

Common Cattail

Green Lacewing

Queen Anne's Lace

Bushy Aster

White Oak

Virginia Pine Sawfly

American Elm

Relationship to Humans:

Many people enjoy seeing American Goldfinches in their gardens or at their birdfeeders. Goldfinches also help control weeds by eating seeds, although they spread some of them also, by pooping out seeds in new places. They also eat a few pesky insects, although they are not the finches main food.

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

KINGDOM
Animal
PHYLUM
Chordate
CLASS
Bird
ORDER
Passeriformes
FAMILY
Fringillidae
GENUS
Carduelis
SPECIES
Carduelis tristis

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