American Goldfinch

A favorite backyard bird, these highlighter yellow sparrow-sized songbirds are easy to identify in spring and summer, but become more challenging when their plumage (feathers) changes to a buffy brown in the winter.

American Goldfinch, photo by John Friedman

Size & Shape: 4 1/4″ – 5″. Small finch with a short bill, long wings and a short tail.

Color: This bird changes drastically depending on the season. In the spring and summer, look for the black head, black and white wings and tail, and highlighter yellow body. In the winter their yellow plumage turns light brown

Behavior: These birds are strict vegetarians, and almost exclusively seed eaters. If they eat an insect, it’s by accident. They have a bouncy flight pattern.

Habitat: Fields with wildflowers, open floodplains and areas that are overgrown with weeds.

Field Marks: Look for the black head and wings, as well as the bright yellow bodies.

Songs & Calls: Listen here.

Fun Facts: American Goldfinches nest later than most birds, waiting until the thistle arrives in June and July to make their nests.

Scientific Name:  Spinus tristis