American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a small, bright flavescent North American bird that is easily identifiable for its remarkable plumage and bold wing patterns. Also known as the eastern goldfinch, these noisy birds are interesting to watch, as the birdwatchers enjoy seeing American goldfinches at their feeders. These birds have a wide sexual dimorphism with the males looking much more brilliant and colorful than the dullish females. These flippant little creatures are cheerful and energetic by nature. They are indigenous to the region where they are found.

American Goldfinch Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Passeriformes
Fringillidae
Spinus
Spinus tristis

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

American Goldfinch

Animalia
Chordata
Aves
Passeriformes
Fringillidae
Spinus
Spinus tristis

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

Physical Description

Size: From tip if its beak to the tail tip, these finches are 4.3 to 5.5 inches in length. The wingspan length is 7.5 to 8.7 inches.

Weight: These very light-weight birds weigh anything between 0.39 and 0.71 oz.

Feathers/plumage: The adult males turn bright yellow during springtime or early summer with a black forehead. The females are much towards the dull side, though, with a dull yellow belly and an olive back. But during wintertime the males lose their bright colors and turn pale.

Wings: Both wings are black with white streak patterns.

Tail: The tail length is 1.7 to 2.0 inches, with white patch marks above and below the tail feathers.

Feet: Their feet are very agile, and are dull red to orangish in color. The feet are very agile with a stern grip to assist in feeding and perching.

Eyes: Eyes are small, round and black.

Bills/Beaks: Their beaks are strong, small, and cone-shaped with a pinkish tone round the year. The pink hue turns to a bright orange hue in both sexes during spring.

Lifespan

The lifespan of the bird is around 3 to 6 years in the wild.

American Goldfinch Bird

American Goldfinch Bird

American Goldfinch Images

American Goldfinch Images

Distribution

The American Goldfinch is commonly spread all throughout the United States of America during the summer months. However, during winter, they are also found in parts of Canada. A scarce population has also been noticed in parts of Mexico.

Habitat: Where do the American Goldfinches live

The finches are mainly found in areas where there is an abundance of plant seeds for them to feed. They are spread all over the open woodlands, roadsides, floodplains, orchards, gardens, areas overgrown with grasses, and the weedy fields. During the winter months, they are also frequently seen in the backyards and at man-made bird feeders.

American Goldfinch Habitat

American Goldfinch Habitat

Classification of Species

By distribution range and physical attributes, the American goldfinch has been subdivided into four subspecies:

  1. Spinus tristis tristis: The most common of the subspecies.
  2. Spinus tristis pallidus: They are slightly larger than the above subspecies. They have a paler body color during winter, but retain stronger white markings. The males have a larger black cap.
  3. Spinus tristis jewetti: This is the smallest but the darkest of all the other subspecies.
  4. Spinus tristis salicamans: This subspecies is browner in appearance than the other three with the males bearing a smaller head cap.

Behavior

The American Goldfinch is gregarious and garrulous. They would live, move and forage in small flocks while constantly chirping and interacting with each other. They are active and acrobatic, moving around in a riffling, bouncy pattern, emitting shrill call notes on the upward strokes.

The birds are quite sociable and would often gather in flocks with other species of birds. Though they are not mimic birds, but while other fellow finches are around, they copy their call and fluff up their feathers. These birds are migratory, but cover only short distances. They move towards the south during wintertime, depending upon how farther north they live.

During nesting, the male would act aggressively towards other males trespassing on its territory, while the female would do the same with other females. However, when the eggs are laid, the aggressive attitude spontaneously subsides. The finches are also not aggressive towards the predators. However, they would only react using their alarm call.

American Goldfinch Birdhouse

American Goldfinch Birdhouse

American Goldfinch Pictures

American Goldfinch Pictures

Calls and Vocalization

Contact calls that sound like “tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit” or “po-ta-to-chip” are the commonest. Their song is common during the summertime, and sounds like ‘rambling’ or ‘warbling’. They emit calls including per-chik-o-ree or a descending ti-di-di-di during flight for drawing each other’s attention. They can easily communicate with each other during perching as they can while flying. The distressed Americans would emit a different sound, while the babies would make a begging tone when hungry.

Diet: What Do American Goldfinches Eat

Primarily, these finches are herbivores, or to be more precise, granivores. They mainly live on the seeds of plants as the main source of their food. Seeds of plants include weeds grasses and trees, like thistle, ragweed, mullein, cosmos, teasel, dandelion, goatsbeard, alder, sunflower, etc. Other than seeds, they also cherish berries, maple sap, and tree buds. However, occasionally, they also prey upon animals, like small insects, and feed the same to their young ones as a source of protein.

Mating and Reproduction

Goldfinches begin breeding in during late summer when most songbirds are finished with their breeding. This breeding nature has classified them as one of the latest nesting birds.

During mating season, the goldfinches live in segregated colonies. The brightly-colored adult males mostly communicate visually for attracting their mates. The primary instruments to attract their partners are their feather colors as also a few special flight patterns. These finches are monogamous; however, they would pair and copulate with a new mate during the next breeding season.

Male and Female American Goldfinch

Male and Female American Goldfinch

Female American Goldfinch

Female American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch Nest

American Goldfinch Nest

The credit of building the nest goes entirely to the female, although the males do help to gather materials for constructing the nest. The nests are mostly cup-shaped, and are built mostly of weeds, bark and grasses. They build the nest mostly in the higher branches of the deciduous trees.

The clutch size of the goldfinch is generally 2 to 7. As the female takes her time of about 12 to 14 days to incubate the eggs, the male brings it food. The eggs are norrrmally dull white, often with spots in red and brown around the large end.

American Goldfinch Eggs

American Goldfinch Eggs

American Goldfinch Chicks

American Goldfinch Chicks

American Goldfinch Baby

American Goldfinch Baby

Life Cycle

As the eggs hatch in about two weeks, the females brood the baby birds for the few initial days of after they are hatched out. Both the mother and the father bring foods to the young ones. The infants are born helpless and naked, with only a nominal amount of gray downs, and open their eyes after about a week. They take around 12 to 17 days to leave their nest. Nonetheless, both the parents would continue feeding their youngs for a few more weeks.

Adaptations

  1. Goldfinches are well adapted to hanging on seed heads. They have great balance and are able to perch on any plant stem by twisting their bodies to reach the seeds or fruits.
  2. These birds extensively use their feet during feeding. Their feet are adapted in such a way that they can hold the branches with a strong grip while reaching for their foods.
  3. The American goldfinch has a conical beak, which is adapted for removing the seed shells. Furthermore, this eases the digestion process.

Predators

The most common predators of these tiny birds are eastern garter snake, blue jay, hawk, squirrel, weasel, American kestrel and domestic and feral cats.

American Goldfinch Flying

American Goldfinch Flying

Conservation Status

The American Goldfinch is not a threatened species. The IUCN 3.1 has categorized them under the ‘LC’ (Least Concern) species list.

Interesting Facts

  • The American Goldfinch is the state bird of New Jersey, Iowa, and Washington.
  • Many collective nouns have been used to describe a group of goldfinches that includes “007”, “charm”, “rush”, “treasury”, and “vein” of goldfinches.
  • Goldfinches often flock with other birds like Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls.
  • The American Goldfinch is the state bird of Iowa and New Jersey, where it is called the “eastern goldfinch”, as also of Washington, where it is called the “willow goldfinch” (subspecies S. t. salicamans).
  • In 1951, this small bird was chosen as the state bird of Washington by the school children of the state.
  • In 1938, several attempts were taken for introducing the little bird into Tahiti and in the 19th century in Bermuda. However, the birds failed to become established.
  • American Goldfinches generally raise one or two broods each year.
  • The feathers of the American goldfinch appear yellow in color because of the presence of carotenoids.
  • Taxonomic Serial Number of the American Goldfinch is 179236.
  • As of 2007, the oldest known American goldfinch was 10 years and 5 months old.

One response to “American Goldfinch”

  1. Sue Vierck says:

    I have several feeders for the Goldfinch. At firsy they were extremely abundant but now they have totally vanished! Any clues as to why?

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