Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The American goldfinch, Carduelis tristis, breeds across southern Canada and most of the United States. After breeding, nomadic flocks may travel widely in search of food. During the winter, flocks can be found from the Gulf Coast of Mexico to the northern United States. In Utah, this bird is found statewide at most times of the year, though it is predominately found in the northern half of the state during the breeding season. It feeds almost exclusively on seeds, though insects are occasionally eaten.

Nesting dates are often among the latest of North American passerines, with eggs typically being laid in June, though they may be laid as early as April in southern portions of the breeding range. Nesting may be timed to synchronize brood rearing with maximum seed availability from thistles, composites, and other favorite summer-blooming plants. Nests are built by the female alone of materials such as fine roots, plant fibers, wool, and spider silk. Five eggs are usually laid and incubated by the female alone for 12 to 14 days. The male feeds the female at the nest during incubation. Young are cared for by both parents, though the female alone feeds them with food brought by the male for the first few days after hatching. Young leave the nest after 11 to 17 days. Usually a second brood is produced each year, and sometimes even a third.


  • Middleton, A. L. A. 1993. American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). Birds of North America 80: 24 pp.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Shuster, Inc., New York. xxx + 785 pp.