At a Glance
A typical summer sight is a male American Goldfinch flying over a meadow, flashing golden in the sun, calling perchickory as it bounds up and down in flight. In winter, when males and females alike are colored in subtler brown, flocks of goldfinches congregate in weedy fields and at feeders, making musical and plaintive calls. In most regions this is a late nester, beginning to nest in mid-summer, perhaps to assure a peak supply of late-summer seeds for feeding its young.
All bird guide text and rangemaps adapted from Lives of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman© 1996, used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Finches, Perching Birds
Arroyos and Canyons, Fields, Meadows, and Grasslands, Forests and Woodlands, Shrublands, Savannas, and Thickets, Urban and Suburban Habitats
California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Southwest, Texas, Western Canada
Flitter, Rapid Wingbeats, Undulating
Range & Identification
Migration & Range Maps
Irregular in migration, with more remaining in North in winters with good food supply. Peak migration is usually mid-fall and early spring, but some linger south of nesting range to late spring or early summer. Migrates mostly by day.
4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm). Summer male bright yellow with black wings, tail, and forehead. Summer female duller yellow-green. Winter birds vary from yellowish brown to gray; note bold wing-bars (white or buff) on black wings, white tail spots.
About the size of a Robin, About the size of a Sparrow
Black, Brown, Gray, White, Yellow
Songs and Calls
Bright per-chick-o-ree, also rendered as potato-chips, delivered in flight and coinciding with each undulation.
Complex, Falling, Undulating
Chatter, Chirp/Chip, Hi, Whistle
Patches of thistles and weeds, roadsides, open woods, edges. Found at all seasons in semi-open areas having open weedy ground and some trees and bushes for shelter, especially areas of second growth, streamsides, roadsides, woodland edges, orchards, suburban areas. In winter also in some very open fields farther from trees.
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4-6, sometimes 2-7. Pale bluish white, occasionally with light brown spots. Incubation is by female only, about 12-14 days. Male feeds female during incubation.
Both parents feed nestlings. At first male brings food, female gives it to young; then both parents feed; role of female gradually declines, so that male may provide most food in later stages. Young leave nest about 11-17 days after hatching.
Forages actively in weeds, shrubs, and trees, often climbing about acrobatically on plants such as thistles to reach the seeds. Except during breeding season, usually forages in flocks. Commonly comes to feeders for small seeds.
Mostly seeds, some insects. Diet is primarily seeds, especially those of the daisy (composite) family, also those of weeds and grasses, and small seeds of trees such as elm, birch, and alder. Also eats buds, bark of young twigs, maple sap. Feeds on insects to a limited extent in summer. Young are fed regurgitated matter mostly made up of seeds.
Nesting begins late in season in many areas, with most nesting activity during July and August. In courtship, male performs fluttering flight display while singing. Nest: Usually in deciduous shrubs or trees, sometimes in conifers or in dense weeds, usually less than 30' above the ground and placed in horizontal or upright fork. Nest (built by female) is a solid, compact cup of plant fibers, spiderwebs, plant down (especially from thistles); nest is so well-made that it may even hold water.
Widespread and very common, although possibly has declined recently in some areas.
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the American Goldfinch. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.
Climate Threats Facing the American Goldfinch
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.