American Goldfinch

The Eastern or American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) is a typical North American seed-eating member of the finch (Fringillidae) family. Also known as the Wild Canary, it averages 11 cm in length and breeds across southern Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland and through most of the United States north of the Gulf States.

It prefers trees in open places, such as those found in orchards and along roadsides. As winter approaches, the goldfinch moves short distances towards the south. Its winter range includes southern British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and most of the United States. The American Goldfinch lays four to six bluish white eggs, roughly the size of peanuts.

The birds molt all but their black wing and tail feathers in the spring and the bills of both sexes turn orange. The male assumes brilliant canary yellow plumage and a striking jet black cap. In flight, a white rump contrasts with the black tail. The winter plumage is a duller olive-brown with some yellow still showing on the head.

Their flight path is not straight; instead, they generally fly while going slightly up and down, making an ocean wave-shaped path.

Their favorite foods are thistle and teasel seeds. However, they also eat small seeds from other weeds, grasses and trees, tree buds, maple sap and sometimes insects. In winter, they are often seen in flocks.

This is the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington.