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Description of the American Goldfinch


The male American Goldfinch in breeding plumage is distinctive.  Length 4-5 in.  Wingspan: 8-9 in.

American Goldfinch m flower gl
Photograph © Glenn Bartley


American Goldfinch


  • Female plumage duller than male
  • Yellow below, olive yellow above
  • Lacks black cap of breeding-plumaged male
  • Strong wingbars


American Goldfinch f gb
Photograph © Greg Lavaty

Seasonal change in appearance

Winter plumage: Male loses black cap, has strong wing-bars. Both sexes duller and browner in appearance. White undertail coverts.


Winter female:


Similar to female.


Found in weedy fields, farmlands, open woodlands, and along forest edge. Also frequents second-growth habitats, parks and suburban yards.


Seeds, occasionally insects. Readily attracted to backyard feeders for sunflower and Nyjer®. (WBFI)


Undulating, bouncy flight. Frequent flight call is per-chik-or-ree or po-ta-to-chip with emphasis on second syllable. Feeds in flocks. Often seen foraging for seeds in weeds, shrubs and trees.


Found throughout most of the United States some part of the year. Summer range extends into southern Canada, winter range into parts of Mexico.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the American Goldfinch.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

- Male American Goldfinch, Maine, April

- Underside of same wing

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

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Fun Facts

One or two broods per year. Monogamous during the first nesting. Females may switch mates after the first brood, leaving her original mate to take care of the fledglings.


Common flight call is 'per-chik-or-ree', with emphasis on second syllable. Often described as sounding like po-ta-to-chip.

Also, high-pitched musical song.


Goldfinches are a popular feeder bird and will consume sunflower, suet and Nyjer® (WBFI). Long tube feeders filled with Nyjer or sunflower can be covered in goldfinches in a spectacular manner. Feeding Nyjer in a seed sock is a good way to attract goldfinches without House Sparrows, starlings or grackles butting in.


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The American Goldfinch is a late nester, often waiting well into the summer to begin nest building. Nests in shrubs or trees, generally 2-33 feet above the ground. Nest is a cup-shaped structure built from plant fibers and lined with plant down. Nest attached to branch with spider silk. Female incubates the eggs and both sexes care for the young.

Number: 3-7, usually 4-6.

Color: Light blue to greenish blue. No markings.

Incubation and fledging

Young hatch at about 11-14 days.

Young are able to fly when they are approximately 11-17 days old.

American Goldfinch nest