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20 Interesting Facts About American Goldfinches

The American Goldfinch is a common sight at backyard feeders. The small birds are found across most of North America, though they do avoid thick forests. The Goldfinch is also the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington, but these are not the only interesting facts about these handsome birds. So in this article we’ll look at 20 awesome facts about American Goldfinches!

20 facts about American Goldfinches

One fact to know before you start looking for finches in your neighborhood, is only breeding males are bright yellow in the spring. Females and males in the winter have duller feathers, but you can still identify the birds by their other common characteristics. Here are a few more facts about the Goldfinch. 

1. Goldfinches Molt Twice a Year

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is the only finch species that molt twice a year. The first time is in the spring when the males get their bright yellow feathers, and the second is at the end of summer when the darker feathers grow in. 

2. Goldfinches are Late Breeders

Compared to other native North American birds, Goldfinches are late breeders. The birds wait to start building nests until late June and early July when the thistle and milkweeds are going to seed. The small birds like to use the seeds in their nests, and also as a nearby food source for their young.

3. Goldfinches are Strict Vegetarians

While some other bird species are omnivores, Goldfinches are avid vegetarians. The only time the birds stray from their vegetarian diet is when they accidentally swallow a small insect. 

4. Unfortunately Brown-headed Cowbirds Like Goldfinch Nests

Brown-headed Cowbirds are known to lay their eggs in an American Goldfinch nest. While the Goldfinch doesn’t mind, it’s unfortunate for the Cowbird hatchlings. Cowbird chicks need a diet that consists of more than seeds and only survives a few days. 

5. Goldfinches Migrate

The American Goldfinch can’t tolerate temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. To avoid dangerously cold weather the birds migrate south throughout the winter following the seasonal weather patterns. In the spring the birds begin migrating north. 

Male American Goldfinch (

6. The Oldest Known Goldfinch Lived Over 10 Years

In 2007, researchers banding Goldfinches in Maryland discovered the oldest known living one at 10 years and 9 months. Due to yearly banding and tracking, scientists were able to verify the bird’s extraordinarily long life. 

7. Goldfinch Pairs Make Nearly Identical Calls

When Goldfinches pair up their flight calls become almost identical. It’s thought that these calls help other flock members distinguish one pair of Goldfinches from another. 

8. Goldfinches Have a Unique Flight Call

American Goldfinches use a four-syllable call when they’re ready to take flight. If you listen closely, it sounds like the birds are saying “po-ta-to-chip”. Both male and female Goldfinches use that call. 

9. Goldfinches Can Have Two Broods

It’s not common but older females can have a second brood in mid or late summer. The female will leave her original mate in-charge of her first brood and find another male. The female will build a second nest for the new brood and raise the hatchlings until it’s time to migrate. 

10. Goldfinch Nests Hold Water

Goldfinches weave their nests tight enough to hold water, though only temporarily. To keep their nests secure in the trees the birds use spider webs. The webbing is used to attach the nest to twigs and even small branches. 

11. There are More Male Goldfinches than Females

Male Goldfinches outnumber females by an estimated ratio of three to two. The reason why the male population is higher is due to their longer lifespan. Males typically live longer than female Goldfinches. 

12. Goldfinch Eggs Are Colorful

A female Goldfinch typically lays between 2 to 7 eggs. The eggs are either greenish-blue or light blue. It takes twelve days for the eggs to hatch, and another 12 days before the hatchlings fledge. 

13. Males and Females Are Dominant

Male and female American Goldfinches are dominant at different times. During the summer, females are dominant and become subservient to the males in winter. It is thought that females are dominant during the warmer months since it is their breeding season. 

Flock of Goldfinches enjoying my Nyjer feeder during the winter.

14. Goldfinches Have Insulation

When Goldfinches go through their second molting in late summer, they grow an undercoat of soft feathers. This undercoat helps to keep the small birds warm in winter temperatures. 

15. Goldfinches Will Burrow in the Snow

Even though Goldfinches prefer to be higher up in the trees, during the winter the birds will make burrows underneath the snow. The small burrows, combined with their feathered undercoats help the birds stay warm. 

16. Goldfinches Prefer to Nest in Trees

American Goldfinches often build their nests higher up in the trees, but they’ll also settle in some taller bushes. Along with preferring their nests to be between 4 to 10 feet off the ground, the birds also like to be near a water source. 

17. A Goldfinch’s Yellow Feathers Are Due to Diet

One of the neatest facts about American Goldfinches is their drastic color change with the seasons. The bright yellow feathers on a breeding male Goldfinch is caused by the bird’s diet. Carotenoid pigments from the plants in its diet give the birds their colorful appearance. 

18. Goldfinches Build Small Nests

The tightly woven Goldfinch nests are small, typically only about 3-inches in diameter and 2 – 4.5 inches high. The nests are secure to the branches but are usually visible from the ground. 

19. Attract Goldfinches with Nyjer and Sunflower Seeds

You can attract Goldfinches to your backyard feeders with sunflower seeds and Nyjer (thistle). Goldfinches can eat out of most bird feeders, but do prefer thistle feeders. The acrobatic fliers also don’t mind if the feeder swings in the wind. 

20. The American Goldfinch is not a Close Relative of the European Goldfinch

Their names are similar, but European and American Goldfinches are not closely related. Along with being classified in separate genera, the coloring is different making it easy to tell the two finch species apart. 


The American Goldfinch is a small and fascinating bird that is a welcome sight at many backyard feeders across North America. Whether you love the birds for their bright yellow feathers or unique flight call, there is something special about the Goldfinch. 

We hope you’ve found this list of facts about American Goldfinches useful and informative!