The American Goldfinch is one of the latest breeders of all temperate
zone passerines (Middleton 1993). Nesting begins in April in the
southwestern USA, but birds in the east delay breeding until July. Nesting
seems to depend on the flowering of the thistle plant.
A nest of plant fibers and plant down, built by the female, is located in
a tree or shrub from 2 to 30 feet high. The nest is woven so tightly that it
will hold water, and there have been reports of young birds that have
drowned in water retained in the nest following a rain storm when the
parents did not protect the nest (Terres 1995).
From 4 to 6 eggs, incubated by the female, hatch in about two weeks. Both
parents feed the young regurgitated seeds. Young birds leave the nest by 17
days. Up to three broods may be raised in a breeding season (Baicich and
According to the web page of the Bird Banding Lab, a total of 1,028,702
American Goldfinches were banded between 1955 and 2000. Banding studies show
that flocks tend to move together. Some populations are migratory, and there
is regional movement in wintering populations. One individual banded in
Ontario in March was recovered 8 months later in Louisiana, a distance of
976 miles (Middleton 1993).
If you should recover a banded bird, you can report the band number to the
Bird Banding Lab by calling 1-800-327-BAND.
Economic Importance and Conservation Status
Clearing of forests and creation of open weedy areas has benefited the
American Goldfinch. American Goldfinches are almost exclusively grainivorous,
even when feeding young. They provide an important service by consuming
large numbers of weed seeds. The increase in backyard feeding has also
benefited this species.
Flocks of Goldfinches are somewhat nomadic, and will move around to
locate better food resources. Flocks will move up to 5 miles per day between
feeders (Middleton 1993).
If the flock visiting your backyard suddenly disappears, they have moved
on to another area, and will soon be replaced by another flock. Check your
seed to make sure it is fresh and clean. Keep you feeders clean as well.
Soiled feeders, especially thistle feeders where birds must use the same
perches and openings to grasp the seeds, can transmit diseases between
Baicich, P. J. and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs
and nestlings of North American Birds, 2nd edition. Academic Press, San
Chapman, F. M. 1902. Handbook of birds of eastern North America. D. Appleton
and Co., New York.
Middleton, A. L. A. 1993. American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). In The
Birds of North America, No. 80 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia:
The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, D.C.: The American
Proctor, N. S. and P. J. Lynch. 1993. Manual of Ornithology. Yale University
Press, New Haven, CT.
Terres, J. 1995. The Audubon encyclopedia of North American birds. Wings
Books, Avenel, NJ.
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