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What Is a Goldfinch?

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  • Written By: Lumara Lee
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2014
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The goldfinch is a small bird found throughout the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. This colorful little finch is the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington, and is a common visitor at bird feeders across the United States. It has a small, conical beak, a black cap, and a yellow body with black and white wings and notched, black and white tail feathers. The goldfinch attains a length at maturity of 5 inches (13 centimeters) and a wingspan between 8 and 9 inches (20 and 23 centimeters). Commonly inhabiting gardens, fields, and orchards, the goldfinch is a sociable bird that likes to flock.

Goldfinches can be seen year-round in more temperate parts of the United States. During the winter months, the goldfinch will migrate from the colder northern climes to the Southern states and Mexico. The male goldfinch sports a bright yellow body in spring and summer during the mating season, and these feathers turn a dull olive color when cold weather begins. These birds molt all of their feathers when changing colors with the seasons. Female goldfinches display this same dull appearance year-round and don’t have the black cap seen on males.

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The goldfinch prefers thistle seeds and will also eat black oil sunflower seeds. To attract these friendly birds to the yard, a bird feeder with multiple feeding ports, or a finch sock filled with thistle, is recommended. A finch sock is a cloth mesh bag that is easy for these little birds to latch onto. As long as their favorite seeds are available, however, these finches will take advantage of any type of bird feeder, even those that swing to and fro in the wind and deter some other birds.

Since they are sociable birds, once one finch discovers the bird feeder or finch sock filled with thistle, a group will follow. These birds are acrobatic and can often be seen hanging upside down while they feed. They also flock under bird feeders and eat seed that has fallen on the ground.

The goldfinch is monogamous, and a mated pair generally hatches one or two clutches of four to six pale blue eggs per year. Male goldfinches feed their mates during the 10 to 12 days while incubation takes place, and then both parents feed the hatchlings for the first few weeks. The young birds leave the nest after around two weeks. Since goldfinches eat seeds, they reproduce later in the season than most other birds, when seeds are more abundant.

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