American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)

Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae


  • Size: 4.3″ to 5.1″
  • Males are bright yellow with black forehead and black wings with white markings.
  • Adult females are a duller yellow beneath, with olive above.
  • Winter birds are drab, unstreaked brown, with blackish wings and two pale wing bars.
  • Molts its feathers twice a year, in late winter and in late summer.
  • Most common call sounds like the bird is quietly saying “po-ta-to-chip.”
  • Black oil sunflower
  • Sunflower hearts/chips
  • Thistle/Nyjer
  • Ground
  • Hopper
  • Screen
  • Thistle
  • Tube

Antonio Xeira, XC383960. Accessible at

Short distance migrant

  • American Goldfinches are the only finch that molts its body feathers twice a year, once in late winter and again in late summer. The brightening yellow of male goldfinches each spring is one welcome mark of approaching warm months.
  • American Goldfinches breed later than most North American birds. They wait to nest until June or July when milkweed, thistle, and other plants have produced their fibrous seeds, which goldfinches incorporate into their nests and also feed their young.
  • Goldfinches are among the strictest vegetarians in the bird world, selecting an entirely vegetable diet and only inadvertently swallowing an occasional insect.