Do Goldfinches Migrate? Where Do They Go And When Do They Come Back?

Martha Martins
Oct 24, 2023 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Nov 15, 2021
Male American Goldfinch perched on branch.

American goldfinches are small North American birds, belonging to the finch family.

Goldfinches are migratory birds that migrate from mid-Alberta to North Carolina, especially during the breeding season, and from southern Canada to the United States border during the winter season.

American goldfinches molt completely and are vocal birds with a lifespan of about six years in the wild, and are also known as Spinus tristis and are classified by different colors of both male and female.

The male shows vibrant yellow feathers during summer and displays olive during winter, whereas, the females show a dull yellow with brown shade shining through the summer season. Males display their shiny bright plumage to attract females during the breeding season.

During winters they are commonly found in southern British Columbia, Winnipeg, and Manitoba. American goldfinches are birds that feed on anything they find, as they are carnivores.

However, these birds eat seed heads like sunflower seeds and thistle seeds, especially during winters. They appear in large flocks while migrating and feeding because of their social nature.

A territorial behavior can be observed among them while nesting construction. These birds are monogamous and reproduce a single brood per year.

Humans are kind to these birds, they are allowed to residential areas as they are attracted to bird feeders which increase their chance of survival in these areas. American goldfinches are adapted to habitats like weedy fields and meadow areas.

They are often spotted on trees in the wild. Those who pet this bird species should ensure to feed them with bird feeders on a regular basis.

Goldfinch Winter Habits

The American goldfinch is a partially migratory bird. They migrate from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the winter months.

They spend most of their time in Southern Canada and the United States. During winter American goldfinches seek out the same types of plants, evergreens, low dense forests and this is done before or after the nesting season. If you pet this bird, provide a proper bird feeder on a regular basis.

American goldfinches show a drastic change in their plumage during the seasonal change from winter to spring, and also when they begin to make their nests. While feeding on thistle seeds they may visit your backyard feeder and keep other birds away from your backyard.

They will stand guard and have a look at other birds from entering your birdseed. They molt twice a year with their feathers before they start breeding and after nesting.

They start their journey back home in early spring before the breeding season when the winter period is nearing. Males and females show different color combinations during winter.

For instance, the male inhibits yellow feathers and the female goldfinch is grayish browns with yellow markings and dark brown wings with white bars on them. American goldfinches are attracted more towards weedy plants and grasses for food during late summer.

Range and Seasonal Movements

American goldfinches are usually found from the middle to the Northern Mexico of the United States, migration is seen from north to south. During summer, these wild birds live in southern Canada and migration can be observed during winter. They also reside around the eastern and northern parts of Mexico.

American goldfinches show partial migration. Some of the wild birds unlimited of California do not migrate, while some of them do travel short distances.

Their movements begin from Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the border with Mexico and again from south of Texas 100 mi (160.94 km) back to Mexico. American goldfinches, when turning their plumage into different colors, particularly during winter or during movements, is called pine siskin.

Pine siskins are common among these birds.

Humans should know how to attract these bird feeders to make them enter your backyard and feed them. During their movements, they feed on tree buds, maple sap and berries from plants and trees, insects, small seeds, and for nutrition they eat spiders.

Residents of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Massachusetts are common bird watchers of American goldfinches during summer when nests are being prepared. They can be found on roads, trees, nests, and forested lands.

Goldfinch Nesting

American goldfinches are wild birds, who make their nest from middle July to the end of August. Male goldfinch tries to impress the female during flight and shows the changing colors of their plumage. They also sing to flatter the female, and then the pair flies in circles together.

Pairs of these American goldfinches move together to make a common territory in a loose colony-like area to keep them and their young ones safe from predators like hawks, cats, squirrels, and snakes. Goldfinch nests are prepared by females 30 ft (9.14 m) off the ground.

The outer covering is done from the dead tree bark, leaves, weeds, and vines.

The nest is so well constructed that it has the capability of holding water. At first, the female goldfinch will lay around four to six white eggs with a bluish and green shade.

The eggs will hatch after two weeks from the incubation period and will leave the nest just after a week. They have a lifespan of six to seven years.

Their nesting season occurs from May until June and the nesting period depends upon the groups of American goldfinches that they belong to.

There is a major nesting material called the thistle seed or plant which blooms in the month of July and the downy seeds. An American goldfinch's habitat mainly includes materials from backyard gardens and farms.

Comparison with Similar Species

There are some species and subspecies which are similar to the American goldfinch, which can be compared to them. American goldfinches are from the pine siskin group, they were earlier mixed with the Carduelis and subgenus and they are the closest relatives of a group of wild birds like a lesser goldfinch, Lawrence's goldfinch, and also the siskins.

There are four major subspecies of American goldfinch which are given below.

S. t. Tristis is a subspecies that commonly migrate from Canada (Southern), east of Carolinas during summer, to Colorado, and from Canada south to central Mexico and Florida during winter. Next is S. t Pallidus, which can be defined by its pale body feathers.

They migrate from British Columbia to western Ontario, south in the summer season.

The third subspecies of American goldfinches is the St. Jewett, which is small, and inhibits darker shade as compared to other species.

They are mostly found on the Cascade Mountains slopes (coastal), from British Columbia (southern) to the central part of California. The last sub-species is S. t. Salicamans, also known as the willow goldfinch, is seen in the west of the Sierra Nevada during summer and the Colorado Desert in winter.

Where do all the American goldfinch go?

American goldfinches are residents of the United States as they are very common in the region, especially around people's gardens, backyards, and nearby places, as they can find foods like leaves, insects, plants, and berries because most people are bird feeders. They are partial migrators and migrate from places during summer and winter.

They are common in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, a few miles away from New York, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, and this time they are less seen in northern parts. These birds also feed for food on a bird feeder sometimes and they are been captured while feeding on a bird feeder.

They are found in places like a ground, tree, scattered bushes, and many more with thistle-like plants and seeds for food as they are fond of eating seeds.

During winter American goldfinches can be seen in New York, Vermont, and also in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island. They find habitats like rocky mountains and pacific regions.

Their nest is also built at 30 ft (9.14 m) off the ground by the female American goldfinches. They are migratory but do not visit the south in the winter season.

Therefore, it is said that the northern population of American goldfinches is more migratory. They feed on food like elm, alder, and birch, thistle plants, and for nutrition feed on spiders.

They are usually found in flocks, especially during feeding with a little aggression.

One of the finches has a record of living 11 years, but its lifespan is usually six to seven years maximum. Finches are attracted to bird feeders easily.

Climate Threats Facing The American Goldfinch

American goldfinches, or finches in general, are migratory birds and have to face several climate changes while migrating. They are wild birds and some of the weather conditions are not suitable for them even in wild.

Climate change can affect a bird in such a way that they find difficulty in finding food, shelter, and a place to make their nest.

The best thing is that finches are not harmed or threatened by human activities and are well placed in residential areas. Deforestation may affect goldfinches as they are ruining their homes or the place where they can construct their home.

They have to face various climate threats in different regions while migrating, such as extremely hot and humid weather or in winter, extremely cold winds. They sometimes murmur or sing a song to flatter the female while breeding.

They save food for their young ones who may start feeding just after their eggs hatch because they leave their nest within one week.

Goldfinches are not aggressive but while nesting in flocks or pairs within the territory, they may show a little bit of aggression. Goldfinches communicate in several vocalizations like 'per-twee-twee-twee', or 'ti-di-di-di' and make an alarm sound when any predator is around their nest or the whole territory.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for do goldfinches migrate then why not take a look at when do birds migrate or American goldfinch facts?

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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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