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Hear a story about the American goldfinch
Hear an American goldfinch

Most Texans know the American goldfinch only as a winter resident. Flocks of the plump, five-inch "wild canaries" mob backyard feeders and troop through the fields and open woodlands across the state. They fly up in undulating, up-and-down fashion, filling the air with their twittering calls of per-chic-o-ree or Just-look-at-me! Lured to sunflower or thistle-seed feeders, they methodically gorge themselves on the tasty kernels, occasionally jockeying for position with a flurry of wings, but usually without major squabbles. Goldfinches seem to be amiable and social birds.

The American goldfinch breeds across southern Canada and in all but the most southerly portions of the United States and spends the winter months from the northern tier of states to Mexico. Although a common winter resident throughout most of Texas, the goldfinch remains to breed only sparingly in the northeastern corner of the state.

In breeding plumage the male is a bright, glowing yellow with a small black cap, wings and tail. (Click to see image.) White wing-bars and white feather edgings on the tail contrast sharply with the black background. He is the only small yellow bird with black wings. The female wears less striking garb (see "Bird of the Month" photo). Olive-green above and paler yellow below, she lacks the black cap and the bright yellow shoulder patches on her brownish black wings. Winter adults and immatures resemble females but are duller and more grayish, sometimes with only traces of the characteristic golden plumage. Their conical finch bills, however, separate them from the olive or yellowish warblers with which they might be confused.

Above: Purple finch and American goldfinches at sunflower-seed feeder.

Appearing in Texas in October, goldfinches sometimes linger until late May or early June, for they move northward to nest later in the season than most other birds. By that time they have achieved full breeding plumage. The female makes a compact cuplike nest in the fork of a shrub or tree, usually near water, and typically lays four to six pale bluish white eggs. The young are fed mashed regurgitated thistle and other seeds, an unusual diet for baby birds. Adults, too, are primarily seed eaters, consuming only occasional insects and berries. Look for goldfinches in grassy fields, open woodlands, roadsides, urban parks and backyards.

More Bird Facts

Finches are members of the Fringillidae family and include siskins, crossbills, redpolls and the evening and pine grosbeaks. Twenty-five species occur in America.

The birds of this family are often called "Old World Finches" because some species are also found in Europe.

The American goldfinch is the state bird of New Jersey, Washington and Iowa.

Other finches: The house finch is a year-round resident across most of Texas while the lesser goldfinch is a year-round west Texas resident. The purple finch is a winter visitor found in the central and eastern regions of the state.

More Interviews with Experts

Hear an interview about winter finches in Texas.

Hear an interview on banding finches.

Visit these websites for more information

A beautiful drawing of a goldfinch.

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This website was a project of the Passport to Texas Radio Series and Texas Parks & Wildlife from 1999-2001 | Website designed by Pallasart Web Design | © 2002 KJ Productions and audioeclips | Photograph © Photo by John L. Tveten