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American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

American Goldfinch

Carduelis tristis

(Order: Passeriformes; Family: Fringillidae)

Male American Goldfinch (photo by: Anna Balthazor)

 

Diagnosis:

During the breeding season, male goldfinches molt to a brilliant yellow body with a black crown. The wings and tail are black except for the uppertail and undertail coverts which are bright white. Females look very similar except the yellow body is a duller olive-yellow and they have no black crown. In the nonbreeding season the male loses his black crown and both the male and female plumage dulls to a gray-brown color. American Goldfinches molt twice a year.

 

Male American Goldfinch (Image from: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/lifehistory)

 

Male nonbreeding plumage (Image from: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/lifehistory)

 

Female American Goldfinch (Image from: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/lifehistory)

 

Natural History:

American Goldfinches form monogamous pairs and breed late in the summer, during the same time thistle and milkweeds bloom. Females lay up to half a dozen eggs and incubate for about two weeks while males provide food. Brown-headed Cowbirds have had little success in parasitizing these finches due to their strict vegetarian diet, which is insufficient nutrition for the Brown-headed Cowbird offspring. The American Goldfinch is a gregarious bird and, outside of the breeding season, is typically found with other finches.

 

Distribution:

(Image from: http://birding.about.com/od/birdprofiles/ss/American-Goldfinch-Range-Map...)

 

Habitat:

Open woods, disturbed areas with weeds, roadsides and urban areas that provide food (dandelions, nyjer, or sunflower seeds)

 

Diet:

Granivore, during nesting American Goldfinches prefer fibrous seeds such as dandelion, thistle and milkweed

 

Conservation Status:

Least concern

 

Native Status:

Native to North America

 

Links:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/id

 

Video:

 

References:

Middleton, Alex L. A.. 1991. Failure of Brown-Headed Cowbird Parasitism in Nests of the American Goldfinch. Journal of Field Ornithology, Vol. 62, No. 2, pp. 200-203

Peterson, Roger Tory. 2008. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. First Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston, New York.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Goldfinch/lifehistory

http://birding.about.com/od/birdprofiles/ss/American-Goldfinch-Range-Map.htm

http://www.wbu.com/chipperwoods/photos/goldfinch.htm

 

Submitted by Anna Balthazor, July 2012

Wichita State University
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