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American Goldfinch - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by KC Foggin
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA, May 2021
Spinus tristis

Carduelis tristis


Photo © by Danielbirdwatcher
Summerville, South Carolina, USA, 14 April 2021

4 1/2-5" (11-13 cm).

Breeding male

  • Bright yellow with a white rump
  • Black forehead
  • White edges on black wings and tail
  • Yellow at bend of wing.

Female and winter male

  • Duller and grayer with black wings and tail
  • Wing bars are white in adults, buffy in immatures.
  • Male has more yellow on chin and face.


North America, Canada, United States, Central America
Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan
United States of America: New England, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming
Central America: Mexico: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca


Male in breeding plumage
Photo © by Gene
Illinois, USA, 24 June 2006

Formerly included in genus Carduelis.


Photo © by Deerbird
Kentucky, USA, 4 August 2015

Four subspecies are recognized[1]:

  • S. t. jewetti:
  • S. t. pallida:
  • S. t. salicamans:
  • S. t. tristis:
  • Eastern Canada to east-central US; winters to south-eastern US and eastern Mexico


Brushy thickets, weedy grasslands, and nearby trees.



Undulating flight often in flocks.


4 or 5 pale blue eggs are laid in a well-made cup of grass, bark strips, and plant down, placed in the upright fork of a small sapling or a shrub. Nests later in summer than other songbirds making it possible to use thistle down in constructing nests.


Strict vegetarian. They eat a wide variety of seeds with a preference for thistle. Also shoots and buds of trees and flowering plants and sometimes tree sap. Occasional insects.


Call: "per-chick-o-ree", also rendered as "potato-chips", delivered in flight and coinciding with each undulation. Song is a long, rambling jumble of sweet and melodious notes interspersed with thin twittering and trills.


Resident, migratory and partially migratory. Southern populations largely resident or make short-distance movements to non-breeding areas. Northern population predominantly migratory, females moving farther south than males.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Lepage D. (2020) American_Goldfinch in Avibase - The World Bird Database. Retrieved 30April 2020
  3. American Goldfinch - whatbird.com identify.whatbird.com
  4. McGraw, K. J. and A. L. Middleton (2020). American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.amegfi.01
  5. Clement, P. (2020). American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/61356 on 30 April 2020).

Recommended Citation

External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.1