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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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

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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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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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.
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