The Ultimate Guide to the American Goldfinch – Bird Lover Nest

The Ultimate Guide to the American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is a beautiful and small member of the finch family. It’s easily recognizable from its distinct colors and is a welcomed member of many feeders everywhere.

American bird watchers love the goldfinch and love to add feeders and more to their backyard bird gardens to attract them.

The following guide will tell you everything you need to know about the American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch Characteristics

Both males and females look very different in this species, however, one underlying common characteristic is their color. Both genders have a yellow color on their bodies somewhere. 

Males are dark yellow on their chest and back, while having a drop of black and white on their tail feathers. Males’ beaks are also bright orange.

American goldfinch on a branch


Females are much duller and have a brown body with a lighter shade of black and white on their tail feathers. They have a slight yellow color on their heads and also have a dull colored beak.

American Goldfinch Habitat

American Goldfinches live in areas like weedy fields, floodplains, and backyards, where the thistles are common.

They live dominantly in the United States, Mexico, Canada, North America as a whole, and Central America. Typically during non-breeding season, they move to the more Southern areas like Mexico and Florida.

Once breeding season begins, they often move to some northern states and Canada. Some finches compromise though and live in the middle year-round in regions such as Arkansas, Maine, or Wisconsin.

The Goldfinches make their nests in shrubby, open grass with nests around 3 to 4 inches high and 3 inches across. The nests are usually moved into a small tree or shrub, several meters high, in order to escape any possible predators.  They also like to play in backyard bird baths.

American Goldfinch Diet

The American Goldfinch’s diet comprises of bird seeds, weeds, grasses, buds, bark of young twigs, and maple sap.

This means they are extremely strict vegetarians and will only eat an insect, or any living creature, if they inadvertently do so. This is very different from other birds, when comparing diets.

American Goldfinch Bird Feeders

American Goldfinches prefer tube and mesh feeders, however most typical feeders will work. The goldfinch feeder should be filled with thistle (Nyjer) or sunflower seeds, as that is one of their favorite things to eat.

Be sure to replace the food every three to four weeks, as just like us, they don’t prefer stale food. Make sure the food stays dry, or else the Goldfinches may stay away due to a distaste for damp food.

American Goldfinch Mating

Typically, during mating season, multiple males are vying for one female. They may try to attract her attention by chasing her over a large area for twenty minutes or more. A pair of Goldfinch may fly in a circular motion, with the male singing while flying.

Breeding season is only from late July to early September. During this time, the pair of goldfinch will build a nest together for the young they are expecting. This nest is often made from weeds, vines, caterpillar webbing, and thistle disperses.

American goldfinch upside down on a plant 

These birds are monogamous which means that they’ll only have one mate per mating season, however, this doesn’t mean that they mate for life. Once the season is over, the two birds separate and move on to future mates.

American Goldfinch Fun Facts

  1. American goldfinches molt their feathers twice a year! The molting happens once during late winter and again in late summer. The spring feather color is yellow, which is an uplifting color for the future warm months to come.
  2. Brown-headed Cowbirds often will lay their young into American goldfinch nests. This is unfortunate though, since these cowbirds are unable to survive on the all seed diet that the goldfinch feed their young. This results in the baby Cowbirds dying within a few days.
  3. During winter, the goldfinch migrate south. Their rule of thumb is that the coldest temperature that should exist, wherever they go, should be no colder than 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Goldfinches, when paired up, begin to make nearly identical flight calls. This easily distinguishes one pair from another.
  5. The oldest known American Goldfinch was 10 years and 9 months old when it was recaptured and released in a banding operation in Maryland.
  6. The American Goldfinch breed later than most North American birds as they breed during June or July. This is because milkweed and thistle also produce their fibrous seeds around this time as well.