American Goldfinch
Description  4 1/2 - 5"   Breeding male bright
yellow with a white rump, black forehead, white edges
on black wings and tail, and yellow at bend of wing.  
The summer female is olive yellow, with a bib of
yellow on her neck and breast.

After a complete molt in the fall, the birds grow
plumage that is almost identical in color for both
sexes. They are buff-colored below and olive brown
above. Their wings are black with white wing bars and
the black tail is etched with white. The face and neck
are a pale yellow only a hint of the bright yellow of

Habitat   Brushy thickets, weedy grasslands, and
nearby trees.

Diet   Principally a seed-eater, the bird has an
abundant food supply for much of the year, including
seeds of thistle, dandelion, ragweed, mullein,
cosmos, goatsbeard, sunflower, and alder.

Nesting  Courtship between pairs begin in the
spring; however actual mating and nest building
doesn't take place until late summer.  

The female builds the nest up to 30 feet off the ground
in the terminal branches of a bush or tree.  The
female incubates 4 to 6 pale blue eggs for 12 to 14
days. The male brings her food while she incubates,
and while she broods the young for the first few days
after they hatch.

After that, both parents bring regurgitated seed to the
young. The young leave the nest after 12 to 17 days,
but the parents continue to feed the young for a few
weeks. American Goldfinches generally raise one or
two broods each year.

Range  Breeds from southern British Columbia
east to Newfoundland and south to California, Utah,
southern Colorado, central Oklahoma, Arkansas, and
Carolinas. Winters in much of United States.

They migrate in compact flocks with an erratic, "roller
coaster" flight.

Voice  Bright per-chick-o-ree, also rendered as
potato-chips, delivered in flight and coinciding with
each undulation.

Discussion  Studies of their winter migrations
from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Washington
State have shown that these birds hesitate before
flying across water. In one instance, some returned to
the mainland.

One by one, the whole flock followed suit. Ten
minutes later they returned to the waterside,
chattering noisily. Many birds then continued on.
Those remaining repeatedly took wing only to veer off
and again return to land. Finally, a sharp drop in
temperature forced the birds to complete their
April 15, 2005   A flock of American
Goldfinches swooped in, spent only
minutes in my trees, then flew across
town.  I followed them in my car and got
a few shots of them hanging in the trees
near a stream. Not the best pictures,
but was happy to get a few shots.
A return visit.  A female house finch (at left) feeds with two
goldfinch females and a male.
April 2005  Female
April 2005  Male
January 2006
January 2006
April 2005  Male
The State Bird of Washington
L to R:  Male Goldfinch (winter plumage) far left, and female Goldfinch, far right, happily dine
with two female house finches and one male house finch.