American Goldfinch

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American Goldfinch

photo of American goldfinch
Spinus tristis
Fringillidae (finches) in the order Passeriformes

Upperparts of male are bright yellow, with black wings, tail, and forehead, and 2 white wing bars and tail spots. Underparts are bright yellow. Upperparts of female are greenish yellow, with dark wings and tail; underparts are pale yellowish. In winter, the male resembles the female, with brownish underparts, blackish wings, and yellowish face. Female in winter is grayer with brownish wings. The song is a long jumble of warbles, whistles, and twitters. Calls include “per-chick-o-ree” and “sueweeet,” often given during their characteristic undulating flight.

Length: 5 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Often seen in flocks on the ground or in trees in open grasslands, city parks, yards, weedy fields, and fields with mature sunflowers and other members of the sunflower family.
Forages on the ground or among vegetation for insects, berries, and seeds. It is a frequent visitor to bird feeders that offer sunflower and niger seeds. Goldfinches feed their young thistle seeds and other midsummer flower seeds, which they regurgitate into the mouths of the young. Most small birds feed insects (a more concentrated source of protein) to their young.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common permanent resident.
Life cycle: 
Goldfinches pair up and begin nesting when most composite flowers, such as thistles, begin to bloom. Soft milkweed and thistle silk is commonly used in their cup-shaped nests. One of the latest nesting species in Missouri, goldfinches wait until July and August to begin raising their broods. There are usually 2-7 eggs per clutch, and the female does about 95 percent of the incubation, which lasts about 2 weeks. Young fledge in 11-17 days.
Human connections: 
Colorful and energetic, the American goldfinch is the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey, and Washington. Goldfinches entertain snowbound people when they visit backyard feeders. When the males start turning bright yellow, it is a welcome sign of spring.
Ecosystem connections: 
Brown-headed cowbirds are a bane to many birds, as they sneakily lay their eggs in the nests of other species, which unwittingly raise aggressive cowbird chicks beside their own. Studies have found that cowbird chicks do not survive in goldfinch nests on the seeds-only diet goldfinches provide.
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