An exquisite little bird, distinguished by red face and characteristic bright yellow wing bands.
21cm to 25.5cm
14g to 19g
The goldfinch has dun brown mantle contrasted sharply with wings that are black with a golden-yellow panel along the centre. It has a white breast with brown markings under the throat – also white, and above this a red face with black stripes from eyes to beak. The goldfinch has a black crown that curves down to the shoulder. The long tail is black with a white fork at the tip. It has pale rufous flanks and a whitish rump. Its ivory white bill is wide at the top and tapers to pointed. Sexes are similar in colourings. Juveniles earn the yellow flash on their wings, which they reveal in flight, before their face markings which are acquired around two months after leaving the nest.
Adult and Juvenile Goldfinch
Goldfinches can always be recognised by their interwoven call, a trisyllabic cheery “tickelitt” with emphasis on the final syllable. They have a rather quiet song that consists of rapid trills interspersed with mewing notes.
Alexander Henderson, XC468562. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/468562.
Something of a specialist, the goldfinch has a uniquely adapted bill that it uses like a tweezer to pluck seeds directly from plants, especially the thistle, which it favours. It will also eat daisies, dandelions, groundsel, teasel and burdock.
For a complete guide on the diet of goldfinches, check out this article.
The goldfinch is mainly a summer visitor to Britain, and can usually be seen from April to early November.
The goldfinch is unmistakable due to its broad yellow wing bar on black wings. Goldfinches are gregarious and can be seen in flocks over open country after breeding has occurred. The birds can often be seen acrobatically extracting seeds from plants or swinging on alder or birch catkins.
Goldfinches were often kept as captive birds by the Victorians. They can live for up to 10 years.
Goldfinches breed in low-lying deciduous woodland, in pine plantations and in orchards and gardens. They will nest among the thinner outer branches of trees or in tree crown. The nest is a very neat construction of moss and grass and is thickly lined. The female will lay 4-6 very pale blueish-white eggs. Birds will raise 2 broods a year, sometimes 3.
For more information on goldfinch nesting, check out this guide.
Goldfinches live on average for 2 years.
Most goldfinch populations are migratory and will winter around the Mediterranean. In the UK, the goldfinch is generally a summer visitor.
For more information on goldfinch migration, check out this guide.
A serious decline in goldfinch numbers was recorded in the 1980s, probably caused by a scarcity in weed seeds, bust some recovery has since taken place.
Collective nouns that can be used to describe a group of Goldfinches are as follows:
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