The American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) is a widespread and well-loved songbird. It is known for its vibrant yellow summer plumage, which makes the goldfinch recognizable as it flies about and forages through grassy meadows and along forest edges.
American Goldfinches are native to North America - where they are distributed widely throughout the continent. Their range spans from central Canada and south to the central United States.
These songbirds are year-round residents within most of their US habitat. However, northern-ranging populations frequently migrate south in the winter, expanding into the southern US and Mexico.
We will discuss the American Goldfinches range and habitat in more detail throughout the article. Read on to discover more!
American Goldfinches are widely distributed across North America, particularly from central Canada to central United States
The American Goldfinch is widely distributed throughout North America. They are present in central and southern Canada during the summer breeding season. Populations also occur across the United States. Although, the goldfinch is most common in the Northeast and Midwest.
Flocks of American Goldfinches are only found in the southern US and along the west coast south of Washington in the winter. Migrants from northern breeding regions make their way south during the winter, reaching into northern and eastern Mexico.
American Goldfinch male in garden, Marion County, Illinois
The American Goldfinch is most common in the northern and central regions of the United States. Their range limit begins roughly at the east coast of southern North Carolina and runs through the southern states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
From there, populations trend northward away from the southwest, hitting northern Texas, eastern Colorado, central Utah, and Nevada and reaching the Pacific Northwest Coast in Washington. American goldfinches only occur south of this limit in winter.
The American Goldfinch occurs in every US state, depending on the season. However, they primarily reside in the northeastern, Appalachian, midwestern, and northwestern regions - where these birds typically live year-round.
These states include Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Populations continue south along the east coast through Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Goldfinches range west from the coast to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and into the midwest (Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri). The species hits its range limit in the northern portions of the southernmost states, including Alabama and Mississippi.
They also bottleneck in Nebraska, Kansas, and eastern Colorado, only venturing farther north during the breeding season and south during winter. However, the American Goldfinch population spreads out again in the northwest, including Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
Female American goldfinch perched on a plant, Mississauga, Canada
American Goldfinches occur in meadows and grassy fields throughout central and southern Canada. Regions include southwestern Newfoundland, southern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. They also reach south and west through the Rocky Mountains to coastal British Columbia and Vancouver.
During winter, American Goldfinch populations extend eastward to southern Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The habitat of an American Goldfinch remains much the same throughout its wide range. These small songbirds prefer grassy fields and floodplains with low shrubs and saplings for nesting. Habitat also commonly includes composite plants - or flowers in the Asteraceae family.
Aster seeds are the goldfinches’ most common food source.
Aside from weedy, grassy fields, American Goldfinches are also commonly found in agricultural areas, orchards, gardens, and backyards.
American Goldfinches prefer grassy fields and floodplains with low shrubs and saplings for nesting
The American Goldfinch is an extremely common bird. They frequent backyard bird feeders and are present year-round throughout much of the United States.
The best place to see American Goldfinches is in grassy fields, meadows, or any open area where asters and thistles are common. They are also frequent visitors at birdfeeders, especially where thistle seeds are offered.
American Goldfinch perched on a thistle, early in the morning
American Goldfinches are primarily active during the day. They spend most of the daytime foraging in groups along forest edges and meadows. In addition, these songbirds are likely to stop by feeders, especially during winter, when wild seeds are harder to come by.
The American Goldfinch is considered irregularly migratory. Populations in the northernmost reaches of their range will typically migrate to southern Canada or south throughout the US and into Mexico.
However, northern resident goldfinches do not migrate consistently every year. When winters are mild and food supplies are plentiful, these birds will remain in or near their summer breeding grounds.
Southern migration typically occurs mid-fall, with goldfinches remaining in their wintering grounds until early spring.
Pair of Wintering American Goldfinches in Louisiana
In winter, the American Goldfinch’s range extends across the southern United States and into northern and eastern Mexico. These birds also remain year-round throughout the upper half of the US.
They primarily retreat from Canada and the harsh winters of northern Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana.
In summer, American Goldfinches leave Mexico and the hot southern regions of the United States. They migrate back north to breeding grounds throughout central and southern Canada and the northern half of the United States.
A small flock of Goldfinches at a feeder
Outside of nesting season - at its peak in July - American Goldfinches do live in groups. They often gather in large flocks for foraging and migrating.
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