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2011-12-11
Iowa State Bird – American Goldfinch.


The American Goldfinch - Carduelis tristis - is migratory, ranging from Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season and from just south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter. It is gregarious during the non-breeding season, when it is often found in large flocks. This bird prefers open country where weeds thrive.

Description

The body of the male is a brilliant lemon yellow with a striking jet black cap and white rump when the spring molt is complete. The female is mostly brown, lighter on the underside with a yellow bib. After the autumn molt, the bright summer feathers are replaced by duller plumage, becoming buff below and olive-brown above, with a pale yellow face and bib. The autumn plumage is almost identical in both sexes, but the male has yellow shoulder patches. In some winter ranges, the goldfinches lose all traces of yellow, becoming a predominantly medium tan-gray color with an olive tinge evident only on close viewing. The beak is small, conical, and pink for most of the year, but turns bright orange with the spring molt in both sexes. The shape and size of the beak aid in the extraction of seeds from the seed heads of thistle and other plants.

The immature American Goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow.

Call

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 be quiet and get them to crouch down in the nest to become less conspicuous. 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.

Food

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

Breeding

The American Goldfinch begins its breeding season later in the year than any other finch. The courtship rituals of the American Goldfinch include aerial maneuvers and singing by males, who begin courtship in late July. The flight displays begin as the male pursues the female, who flies in zigzagging evasive patterns. If a female accepts the male as a mate, the pair will fly in wide circles, as the male warbles throughout the flight. The nest is built in late summer by the female and she lays four to six bluish/white eggs, which are oval. The eggs are incubated by the female alone, with the male bringing her food. The chicks hatch between 12 to 14 days after incubation begins. The male keeps feeding the young for up to three weeks after the young have fledged.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

It 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 the American Goldfinch.

Birdwatching

The American Goldfinch is found in residential areas throughout its range.


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