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.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Lawrence's Goldfinch

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Lawrence's 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.

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