Watching a goldfinch flitter from sunflower to sunflower as it feeds, is a real thrill. These colorful birds are very popular in home backyards and parks. Found all across North America, they are readily identified by their bright yellow color and distinctive flight, swooping up and down, as they travel across a field or yard.
In some areas, goldfinch overwinter. Then you can watch them all year long. In other areas, they migrate to more southerly climates for the winter months. Often, you will find them at your backyard bird feeder any time of year. Their favorite seeds are Thistle, Niger (in winter), and Sunflowers
Native Americans viewed them as a sign of happiness and good fortune. They also considered them as oracles.
Other Names: Eastern Goldfinch, American Goldfinch
State Bird: Goldfinches are the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington
Goldfinches are small birds, just 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches tall, weighing .4 to .7 ounce. Their wingspan is 6 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches across.
They are easy to spot, with their bright yellow feathers, and shiny black forehead. Their wings are black and white bars. They have orange, conical bills, and pointed-notched tail feathers. Goldfinches are also easy to spot in flight, their yellow color drawing our eye’s attention to their swooping flight. Mating pairs are commonly seed together as they feed on ripe sunflowers, or as they visit your bird feeder
The birds molt their feathers both spring and fall, taking on brighter colors for the summer, and more drab colors in the winter.
Male Goldfinch – In the summer, they have bright yellow feathers, with a bright orange belly, black head, and one white bar on their black wings. In the winter, they have much duller feathers. The male is pictured below.
Female Goldfinch – They are smaller than the males and have a duller yellow body. Their backs are olive-colored, and their stomachs are a dull greenish yellow. They are easily identified by the white stripes on their wings.
The female has a much duller drab color, with a lot of green in her feathers.
Goldfinches live for 3 to 6 years. Fortunate bird watchers will find goldfinches at their birdfeeders all year long.
Mating pairs usually stay together for the season. But, they do not mate for life. The adult female lays one brood a year, of 4 to 6 bluish-white eggs. The eggs are about 1/2-inch oval in shape. The incubation period is 12-14 days. Babies are fed regurgitated seeds and insects.
Goldfinch diet consists largely of seeds. They will occasionally consume small insects.
Flower seeds on a Goldfinch’s diet include Asters, Bee Balm, Cosmos, Dandelion, Sunflower, Thistle, and Zinnia. Also, they like ragweed, too. We certainly hope they eat all the ragweed seeds they can find!
The Eastern Goldfinch can be found all over North America. They are at home in weedy fields, orchards, backyards, gardens, floodplains, and along roadsides. This includes just about anywhere that thistle and other flower seeds on their diet are plentiful.
You will find Goldfinch singly, in pairs, or large groups. They group together when feeding and migrating. Additionally, goldfinches are found in loose colonies while nesting.