Photo: Brian E. Small/Vireo

Lawrence's Goldfinch

Spinus lawrencei

Uncommon and somewhat mysterious is this little finch of the far West. It nests very locally in the foothills of California and Baja, often near streams in fairly dry country. Its winter range varies: in some years, flocks spread well eastward across the southwestern deserts, but the reasons for these "invasions" are not well understood. The twittering song of the male Lawrence's Goldfinch often includes brief imitations of the voices of other birds.
Conservation status Uncommon and local, could be vulnerable to loss of habitat.
Family Finches
Habitat Oak-pine woods, chaparral. Breeds locally in a variety of habitats including streamside trees, oak woodland, open pine woods, pinyon-juniper woods, chaparral. Often found close to water in fairly dry country. In migration and winter, occurs in weedy fields, farmland, brushy areas, streamsides.
Uncommon and somewhat mysterious is this little finch of the far West. It nests very locally in the foothills of California and Baja, often near streams in fairly dry country. Its winter range varies: in some years, flocks spread well eastward across the southwestern deserts, but the reasons for these "invasions" are not well understood. The twittering song of the male Lawrence's Goldfinch often includes brief imitations of the voices of other birds.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly in weeds, shrubs, and trees, often feeding quietly in a limited area, clambering about and occasionally hanging upside down to reach seeds. Sometimes feeds on the ground. Usually forages in flocks, even sometimes during nesting season.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Whitish to pale bluish-white, usually unmarked, sometimes with reddish spots. Incubation is by female only, probably about 12-13 days. Male feeds female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-13 days after hatching.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 11-13 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly seeds, some insects. Feeds mostly on the seeds of native weeds and other plants, such as fiddleneck, peppergrass, and chamise. Also eats plant galls, buds, and some insects. Will come to feed on salt.


Nesting

Does not seem to defend territory strongly; sometimes nests in loose colonies. In courtship, male follows female, perches near her and sings. Nest site is usually about 15-20' above the ground in a tree such as oak, cypress, sycamore, or pine, sometimes lower in shrubs or up to 40' above the ground. Nest is a small open cup made of grass, flower heads, plant down, feathers, animal hair. Female builds nest; male often accompanies her and may carry some material, but rarely provides any real help.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Movements are poorly understood. Disappears from many breeding areas in winter. In some winters, large numbers spread eastward across Arizona; in other years, whereabouts of most birds unknown, perhaps in Baja.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Movements are poorly understood. Disappears from many breeding areas in winter. In some winters, large numbers spread eastward across Arizona; in other years, whereabouts of most birds unknown, perhaps in Baja.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a hurried jumble of melodious and scratchy notes, often incorporating both its own call notes and those of other species. Flight note, often revealing the bird's presence high overhead, is a high tinkle, the first note higher.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Lawrence's Goldfinch

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds