Vol. 2, No. 4 – The American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

American Goldfinch of Birds Illustrated by Color Photography, 1897

From col. F. M. Woodruff. Copyrighted by
Nature Study Pub. Co., 1897, Chicago.


“Look, Mamma, look!” cried a little boy, as one day late in June my mate and I alighted on a thistle already going to seed. “Such a lovely bird! How jolly he looks, with that black velvet hat drawn over his eyes!”

“That’s a Goldfinch,” replied his mamma; “sometimes called the Jolly Bird, the Thistle Bird, the Wild Canary, and the Yellow Bird. He belongs to the family of Weed Warriors, and is very useful.”

“He sings like a Canary,” said Bobbie. “Just hear him talking to that little brown bird alongside of him.”

That was my mate, you see, who is rather plain looking, so to please him I sang my best song, “Per-chic-o-ree, per-chic-o-ree.”

“That sounds a great deal better,” said Bobbie; “because it’s not sung by a little prisoner behind cage bars, I guess.”

“It certainly is wilder and more joyous,” said his mamma. “He is very happy just now, for he and his mate are preparing for housekeeping. Later on, he will shed his lemon-yellow coat, and then you won’t be able to tell him from his mate and little ones.”

“How they are gobbling up that thistle-down,” cried Bobbie. “Just look!”

“Yes,” said his mamma, “the fluff carries the seed, like a sail to which the seed is fastened. By eating the seed, which otherwise would be carried by the wind all over the place, these birds do a great amount of good. The down they will use to line their nests.”

“How I should like to peep into their nest,” said Bobbie; “just to peep, you know; not to rob it of its eggs, as boys do who are not well brought up.”

My mate and I were so pleased at that, we flew off a little way, chirping and chattering as we went.

“Up and down, up and down,” said Bobbie; “how prettily they fly.”

“Yes,” said his mamma; “that is the way you can always tell a Goldfinch when in the air. A dip and a jerk, singing as he flies.”

“What other seeds do they eat, mamma?” presently asked Bobbie.

“The seeds of the dandelion, the sunflower, and wild grasses generally. In the winter, when these are not to be had, the poor little fellows have a very hard time. People with kind hearts, scatter canary seed over their lawns to the merry birds for their summer songs, and for keeping down the weeds.”



CCORDING to one intelligent observer, the Finches are, in Nature’s economy, entrusted with the task of keeping the weeds in subjection, and the gay and elegant little Goldfinch is probably one of the most useful, for its food is found to consist, for the greater part, of seeds most hurtful to the works of man. “The charlock that so often chokes his cereal crops is partly kept in bounds by his vigilance, and the dock, whose rank vegetation would, if allowed to cast all its seeds, spread barrenness around, is also one of his store houses, and the rank grasses, at their seeding time, are his chief support.” Another writer, whose study of this bird has been made with care, calls our American Goldfinch one of the loveliest of birds. With his elegant plumage, his rhythmical, undulatory flight, his beautiful song, and his more beautiful soul, he ought to be one of the best beloved, if not one of the most famous; but he has never yet had half his deserts. He is like the Chickadee, and yet different. He is not so extremely confiding, nor should I call him merry. But he is always cheerful, in spite of his so-called plaintive note, from which he gets one of his names, and always amiable. So far as I know, he never utters a harsh sound; even the young ones asking for food, use only smooth, musical tones. During the pairing season, his delight often becomes rapturous. To see him then, hovering and singing,—or, better still, to see the devoted pair hovering together, billing and singing,—is enough to do even a cynic good. The happy lovers! They have never read it in a book, but it is written on their hearts:

“The gentle law that each should be
The other’s heaven and harmony.”

In building his nest, the Goldfinch uses much ingenuity, lichens and moss being woven so deeply into the walls that the whole surface is quite smooth. Instead of choosing the forks of a bough, this Finch likes to make its nest near the end of a horizontal branch, so that it moves about and dances up and down as the branch is swayed by the wind. It might be thought that the eggs would be shaken out by a tolerably sharp breeze, and such would indeed be the case, were they not kept in their place by the form of the nest. On examination, it will be seen to have the edge thickened and slightly turned inward, so that when the nest is tilted on one side by the swaying of the bough, the eggs are still retained within. It is lined with vegetable down, and on this soft bed repose five pretty eggs, white, tinged with blue, and diversified with small grayish purple spots.

A curious story is told of a caged Goldfinch, which in pleasant weather always hung in a window. One day, hearing strange bird voices, the owner looked up from her seat and saw a Catbird trying to induce the Finch to eat a worm it had brought for it. By dint of coaxing and feeding the wild bird, she finally induced it to come often to the window, and one day, as she sat on the porch, the Catbird brought a berry and tried to put it into her mouth. We have often seen sparrows come to the window of rooms where canaries were imprisoned, but it has uniformly been to get food and not to administer it. The Catbird certainly thus expressed its gratitude.


AMERICAN GOLDFINCH.Spinus tristis. Other names: “Yellow-bird,” “Thistle-bird.”

Range—Eastern North America; breeds from South Carolina to southern Labrador; winters from the northern United States to the Gulf.

Nest—Externally, of fine grasses, strips of bark and moss, thickly lined with thistle down; in trees or bushes, five to thirty feet up.

Eggs—Three to six, pale bluish white.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) on Thistle by Fenton

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) on Thistle by Fenton

Lee’s Addition:

Therefore I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above fine gold. (Psalms 119:127 NASB)

The American Goldfinch is a member of the Fringillidae – Finches Family. It is alway a joy to see them come to my feeders.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Male and Female ©WikiC

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Male and Female ©WikiC

The American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis), also known as the Eastern Goldfinch and Wild Canary, is a small North American bird in the finch family. It is migratory, ranging from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season, and from just south of the Canadian border to Mexico during the winter.

The American Goldfinch male is a vibrant yellow in the summer and an olive color during the winter months, while the female is a dull yellow-brown shade which brightens only slightly during the summer. The male displays brightly colored plumage during the breeding season to attract a mate.

The American Goldfinch is a granivore and created for the consumption of seedheads, with a conical beak to remove the seeds and agile feet to grip the stems of seedheads while feeding. It is a social bird, and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating. It may behave territorially during nest construction, but this aggression is short-lived. Its breeding season is tied to the peak of food supply, beginning in late July, which is relatively late in the year for a finch. This species is generally monogamous, and produces one brood each year.

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Female ©WikiC

American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) Female ©WikiC

The American Goldfinch is a small finch, 4.3–5.5 in (11–14 centimeters) long, with a wingspan of 7.5–8.7 in (19–22 centimeters). The beak is small, conical, and pink for most of the year, but turns bright orange with the spring molt in both sexes.[19] The shape and size of the beak aid in the extraction of seeds from the seed heads of thistles, sunflowers, and other plants.

The American Goldfinch undergoes a molt in the spring and autumn, which it undergoes twice a year. During the winter molt it sheds all its feathers; in the spring, it sheds all but the wing and tail feathers, which are dark brown in the female and black in the male. The markings on these feathers remain through each molt, with bars on the wings and white under and at the edges of the short, notched tail. The plumage coloration is especially pronounced after the spring molt, when the bright color of the male’s summer plumage is needed to attract a mate.

Once the spring molt is complete, the body of the male is a brilliant lemon yellow with a striking jet black cap and white rump that is visible during flight.] The female is mostly brown, lighter on the underside with a yellow bib. After the autumn molt, the bright summer feathers are replaced by duller plumage, becoming buff below and olive-brown above, with a pale yellow face and bib. The autumn plumage is almost identical in both sexes, but the male has yellow shoulder patches. In some winter ranges, the goldfinches lose all traces of yellow, becoming a predominantly medium tan-gray color with an olive tinge evident only on close viewing.

The immature American Goldfinch has a dull brown back, and the underside is pale yellow. The shoulders and tail are dull black with buff-colored, rather than white, markings on wings and rump. This coloration is the same in both genders.

The song of the American Goldfinch is a series of musical warbles and twitters, often with a long note. A tsee-tsi-tsi-tsit call is often given in flight; it may also be described as per-chic-o-ree. While the female incubates the eggs, she calls to her returning mate with a soft continuous teeteeteeteete sound. The young begin to use a call of chick-kee or chick-wee shortly before fledging, which they use until they have left the nest entirely. There are two defense calls made by adults during nesting; a sweeet call made to rally other goldfinches to the nest and distract predators, and a bearbee used to signal to the nestlings to quiet them and get them to crouch down in the nest to become less conspicuous.
(Wikipedia with editing)

American Goldfinch song from xeno-canto by Andrew Spencer


Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited

The above article is an article in the monthly serial for October 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.

To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited


(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)

Next Article – The Chimney Swift

The Previous Article – The Lost Mate


Wordless Birds


Fringillidae – Finches Family

American Goldfinch – All About Birds

American Goldfinch – WhatBird

American Goldfinch – National Geographic

American Goldfinch – Wikipedia