Carduelis tristis

(American Goldfinch)

Interesting Facts:

  • The American Goldfinch is one of the latest songbirds to begin nesting during the breeding season.

Conservation Status

Population Analysis

  • For the 54,687 species in the Class Aves (Birds), we average 143.07 observations each in our database; for the American Goldfinch, we have 1,003 observations. Compared to other species in this Class, this species is somewhat common.
  • A two-sample t-test can be used to determine whether the trend in observations of the American Goldfinch is the same as the trend in observations of Aves. Is this species just as common, as a proportion of all observations, as it once was? The answer is no, changes in observation rate of this species significantly differ from changes in observation rate of its Class. (t=12.77, p<0.001)
  • How do observation rates of the American Goldfinch differ from those of Aves? To answer this, we examined the percentage of observerations for Aves that were observations of the American Goldfinch each year. We then correlated this percentage with observation year. If observations of the American Goldfinch are becoming more common relative to other species of Aves, the correlation should be positive, but if it is becoming less common, the correlation should be negative. In fact, the correlation is negative (r=-.47), with a negative slope (m = -.001), suggesting that the American Goldfinch may be in decline relative to other species of Aves. This correlation is statistically significant. (F = 36.42, p<.05)
  • The scatter chart to the right shows the percentage of all observations for Aves each year that were observations of the American Goldfinch.


The American Goldfinch is common in the appropriate habitat.


About the family Fringillidae:

A Family of seed-eating, small to moderately large passerine birds that have strong, stubby beaks, which in some species can be quite large. They have a bouncing flight, alternating flapping with gliding on closed wings. Most sing well.


Name Status: Accepted Name. Latest taxonomic scrutiny: 17-Oct-2001

Physical Description

Adult Summer Female:

Body: Underparts: pale yellow Upperparts: olive.

Adult Summer Male:

Head: Cap: black Body: Back: bright yellow Tail: black.


About 5 inches long, with a wingspan of 8.75 to 9 inches. Adults weigh about 0.5 ounces.



Range and Population

North America


Vegetation: arid lowland scrubs, second-growth scrub, tropical lowland evergreen forest, second-growth forests and woodlands, gallery forests • Minimum Elevation: 0 meters • Maximum Elevation: 1,800 meters • Sensitivity to Disturbance: Low.


Primarily: Seeds

Lesser Quantities of: Insects


The short breeding season begins in July and lasts until mid-September. Breeding habitat is typically weedy fields with shrubs, but the Goldfinch will sometimes nest in open woodlands. The female builds a cup-shaped nest less than 1-10 m (1-30 ft) above ground in a shrubby plant or coniferous tree. The female lays 4 - 6 pale blue eggs, which she incubates for 12-14 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. When the eggs hatch, the female feeds the young regurgitated seeds. Nestlings are altricial and fledge after about 15 days. The parents continue to feed the begging fledglings for up to 3 more weeks. Some females are sequentially polyandrous. After the first brood hatches, the female leaves the brood in care of their father and finds another male for a second nesting attempt.

  • Breeding Habitat: Successional-scrub
  • Nest Location: Mid-story/canopy nesting
  • Nest Type: Open-cup
  • Clutch Size: 4-6
  • Length of Incubation: 10-12 days
  • Days to Fledge: 11-17
  • Number of Broods: occasionally 2




During the winter, the American Goldfinch migrates. This species often forms large foraging flocks, sometimes with other species, including Chickadees, siskins, and other finches. Preferred foraging areas include weedy and cultivated fields, orchards, and flood plains. The Goldfinch forages mainly on seeds of thistle and other many-seeded flowers, grasses, and deciduous trees. Predators include snakes, birds, cats, and squirrels. The Brown-headed Cowbird sometimes lays one egg in the Goldfinch nest, which reduces Goldfinch clutch size. Although the Cowbird egg usually hatches, the Cowbird nestling usually does not survive, probably because it is not well suited for the diet of seeds.


Song in flight
Recordist: Tony Phillips Date Recorded: August 01, 1996 Location of Recording: Limekiln Lake

Song in flight
Recordist: Tony Phillips Date Recorded: August 01, 1996 Location of Recording: Limekiln Lake

Perching song
Recordist: Tony Phillips Date Recorded: July 01, 1997 Location of Recording: Long Island

Perching song
Recordist: Tony Phillips Date Recorded: July 01, 1997 Location of Recording: Long Island

Perching song
Recordist: Tony Phillips Date Recorded: August 01, 1998 Location of Recording: Limekiln Lake

Carduelis tristis
Recordist: John R. Sauer Copyright Holder: John R. Sauer Permissions for Use: See here.

Similar Species

Yellow Warbler, Lesser Goldfinch

Members of the genus Carduelis:

There are approximately 161 species in this genus. Here are just 100 of them: C. ambigua · C. ambigua ambigua · C. atrata · C. atriceps (Black-Capped Siskin) · C. barbata · C. cabaret · C. cannabina · C. cannabina autochthona · C. cannabina bella · C. cannabina cannabina · C. cannabina meadewaldoi · C. cannabina x · C. C. (Eurasian Goldfinch) · C. C. balcanica · C. C. bermudiana · C. C. britannica · C. C. brittanica · C. C. caniceps · C. C. C. (Eurasian Goldfinch) · C. C. columbiana · C. C. elegan · C. C. major · C. C. mediteranea · C. C. melanitica · C. C. niediecki · C. C. paropanisi · C. C. parva · C. C. propeparva · C. C. schiebeli · C. C. ssp · C. C. subulata · C. C. tschusii · C. carduellis · C. carduellis balcanica · C. carduellis rumaniae · C. chloris · C. chloris aurantiiventris · C. chloris chloris · C. chloris chlorotica · C. chloris harrisoni · C. chloris turkestanika · C. chloris vanmarli · C. chloris voousi · C. chloris x · C. citrinella · C. citrinella corsicana · C. citrinelloides · C. communis communis · C. corsicana · C. crassirostris · C. crassirostris amadoni · C. crassirostris crassirostris · C. cucullata (Red Siskin) · C. deichleri · C. dominicensis · C. flammea (Common Redpoll) · C. flammea cabaret (Common Redpoll) · C. flammea carbaret · C. flammea exilipes · C. flammea flammea · C. flammea holboellii · C. flammea hornemanni · C. flammea linaria · C. flammea rostrata · C. flavirostris · C. flavirostris flavirostris · C. flavirostris miniakensis · C. flavirostris pipilans · C. flavirostris rufostrigata · C. hornemanni (Hoary Redpoll) · C. hornemanni exilipes · C. hornemanni hornemanni (Hoary Redpoll) · C. innominatus · C. johannis (Warsangli Linnet) · C. lawrencei (Lawrence's Goldfinch) · C. lawrencii · C. linaria · C. magellanica · C. magellanica alleni · C. magellanica boliviana · C. magellanica capitalis · C. magellanica hoyi · C. magellanica icterica · C. magellanica ictericus · C. magellanica magellanica · C. magellanica paula · C. magellanica peruana · C. magellanica ssp · C. magellanica tucumana · C. magellanica urubambensis · C. magellanica/olivacea · C. magellanicus capitalis · C. magellanicus ictericus · C. monguilloti (Vietnam Greenfinch) · C. nipalensis · C. notata · C. notata forreri · C. notata notata · C. notata notatus · C. notata oleacea

Members of the genus Cardinalis:

There are approximately 52 species in this genus.: C. canicaudus sinuatus · C. C. (Northern Cardinal) · C. C. affinis · C. C. bermudianus · C. C. canicauda · C. C. canicaudas · C. C. canicaudus · C. C. C. · C. C. carneus · C. C. clintoni · C. C. coccinea · C. C. coccineus · C. C. flammiger · C. C. flammigerus · C. C. florida · C. C. floridana · C. C. floridanus (Northern Cardinal) · C. C. ignea · C. C. igneus (Northern Cardinal) · C. C. litoralis · C. C. littoralis · C. C. magirostris · C. C. magnirostris · C. C. mariae · C. C. phillipsi · C. C. phoeniceus · C. C. princeps · C. C. saturatus · C. C. seftoni · C. C. ssp · C. C. superba · C. C. superbus (Northern Cardinal) · C. C. townsend · C. C. townsendi · C. C. x · C. C. yucatanica · C. C. yucatanicus · C. celaeno · C. clintoni · C. phoeniccus · C. phoeniceus · C. phoenicus · C. saturatus · C. sinuatus (Pyrrhuloxia) · C. sinuatus fuluescens · C. sinuatus fulvescens · C. sinuatus fulvesgens · C. sinuatus peninsulae · C. sinuatus sinuata · C. sinuatus sinuatus · C. sinuatus ssp · C. sinuatus texana

More Info



  • Bisby, F.A., Y.R. Roskov, M.A. Ruggiero, T.M. Orrell, L.E. Paglinawan, P.W. Brewer, N. Bailly, J. van Hertum, eds (2007). Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2007 Annual Checklist. Species 2000: Reading, U.K.
  • Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Accessed May 11, 2006. Mediated distribution data from 13 providers.
  • Hines, J. E., Gregory Gough, J. R. Sauer, et al. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
  • NatureServe. 2003. Downloadable animal data sets. NatureServe Central Databases. Accessed February 6, 2005.
  • Parker III, T.A., D.F. Stotz, and J.W. Fitzpatrick, and quot;Ecological and Distributional Databases for Neotropical Birds, and quot; in Neotropical Birds: Ecology and Conservation, by D.F. Stotz, T.A. Parker III, J.W. Fitzpatrick, and D.K. Moskovits (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). ISBN 0-226-64676-9.
  • Pippen, Jeffrey S. Jeff's Nature Page. Accessed December 2, 2007.
  • Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, Results and Analysis 1966 - 2004. Version 2005.2. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
  • Sauer, J. R., S. Schwartz, and B. Hoover. 1996. The Christmas Bird Count Home Page. Version 95.1. USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD
  • The Georgia Museum of Natural History and Georgia Department of Natural Resources


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Last Revised: December 31, 2007