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Species Description

American Goldfinch

Carduelis tristis


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Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae

Description

Summer males are bright yellow with a black cap, black and white tail, and black wings with white shoulder patches and wing bars. The base of the tail is white above and below. Winter males are duller overall and grayish above. Females in both seasons are duller than males. A small finch, 13 cm (5 in) from tip of bill to tip of tail. Has a conical bill.

Life Cycle

The short breeding season begins in July and lasts until mid-September. Breeding habitat is typically weedy fields with shrubs, but the Goldfinch will sometimes nest in open woodlands. The female builds a cup-shaped nest less than 1-10 m (1-30 ft) above ground in a shrubby plant or coniferous tree. The female lays 4 - 6 pale blue eggs, which she incubates for 12-14 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. When the eggs hatch, the female feeds the young regurgitated seeds. Nestlings are altricial and fledge after about 15 days. The parents continue to feed the begging fledglings for up to 3 more weeks. Some females are sequentially polyandrous. After the first brood hatches, the female leaves the brood in care of their father and finds another male for a second nesting attempt.

Natural History

During the winter, the American Goldfinch migrates. This species often forms large foraging flocks, sometimes with other species, including Chickadees, siskins, and other finches. Preferred foraging areas include weedy and cultivated fields, orchards, and flood plains. The Goldfinch forages mainly on seeds of thistle and other many-seeded flowers, grasses, and deciduous trees. Predators include snakes, birds, cats, and squirrels. The Brown-headed Cowbird sometimes lays one egg in the Goldfinch nest, which reduces Goldfinch clutch size. Although the Cowbird egg usually hatches, the Cowbird nestling usually does not survive, probably because it is not well suited for the diet of seeds.

Range

American Goldfinch Region Map In winter, the American Goldfinch occurs throughout Georgia where suitable habitat is present. It may be found year-round in the northern parts of the state. The species' range extends throughout the United States.

Conservation Status

The American Goldfinch is common in the appropriate habitat.

Similar Species

In the western United States, Lesser Goldfinches look similar, but they do not have white at the base of the tail and the males have more black on their heads.