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Washington State Bird - American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch - Carduelis tristis - also known as the Eastern Goldfinch and Wild Canary, is migratory, ranging from Canada to Mexico. This bird prefers open country where weeds thrive as well as open deciduous and riparian woodlands.


The American Goldfinch is a small finch. The male is a vibrant yellow in the summer and an olive color during the winter months, while the female is a dull yellow-brown shade which brightens only slightly during the summer. The beak is small, conical, and pink for most of the year, but turns bright orange with the spring molt in both sexes. The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt in the spring and autumn. The immature American Goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with buff-colored, rather than white, markings on wings and rump.


The song is a series of musical warbles and twitters, often with a long note. A tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call is often given in flight; it may also be described as per-chic-o-ree. There are two defense calls made by adults during nesting; a sweeet call made to rally other goldfinches to the nest and distract predators, and a bearbee used to signal to the nestlings to quiet them and get them to crouch down in the nest to become less conspicuous.


It is mainly granivorous, but will occasionally eat insects, which are also fed to its young to provide extra protein.


The American Goldfinch begins its breeding season later in the year than any other finch. This may be related to the abundance of seeds in the late summer months, as seeds represent the majority of their diet. The male displays brightly colored plumage during the breeding season to attract a mate. Once a male has found a mate, he selects a territory, marking the boundaries by warbling as he flies from perch to perch. After circling the perimeter, he performs two flight displays, first repeating a low, flat flight, then flying in an exaggerated version of normal flight, tucking his wings close to his body, plummeting earthwards and catching himself as he spreads his wings to glide upward in a series of loops. Two or three pairs may group their territories together in a loose colony, perhaps to aid in defense against predators.

The nest is built in late summer by the female in the branches of a shrub or tree. She lays four to six bluish-white eggs and are incubated by the female. The chicks hatch in 12–14 days and fledge in after 11–15 days.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

Common throughout much of United States and southern Canada. The American Goldfinch is not threatened by human activity, and is widespread throughout its range. The clearing of forests by humans, though harmful to many species, has benefited this bird.


Look for it in fields, meadows, on roadsides, orchards, and gardens. The American Goldfinch is found in residential areas throughout its range.

Washington Birding Hotspots

Skagit Flats

Grays Harbor Estuary

Olympic National Park

Dungeness NWR

Mount St. Helens

Long Beach

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Lake Hills Greenbelt Park

The Columbia River Gorge

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

Steigerwald National Wildlife Refuge

Willapa NWR


Ocean Shores

Hurricane Ridge

Cape Flattery

Potholes Reservoir

Black Lake Meadows

Capitol Lake

Grass Lake

McLane Creek

Mud Bay-Perry Creek

Olympia Waterfront

Priest Point Park

Watershed Park

North Cascades National Park Complex



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