Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)


French: Chardonneret jaune German: Goldzeisig Spanish: Jilguero yanqui

Fringilla tristis


, 1758,

South Carolina, USA


Geographical variation slight and clinal; some races perhaps untenable. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. t. pallidus Mearns, 1890 – S Canada (SC British Columbia E to W Ontario) and C & WC USA (E from E Oregon to W Great Plains, S to NW Colorado); winters also from N California S to NC Mexico.
  • S. t. jewetti van Rossem, 1943 – extreme SW Canada (SW British Columbia) S in W USA to C California.
  • S. t. salicamans Grinnell, 1897 – SW USA (W Sierra Nevada, in California); winters E to Mojave and Colorado Deserts and S to NW Mexico (N Baja California).
  • S. t. tristis (Linnaeus, 1758) – SE Canada (E from Ontario) and C & E USA (E from SE Minnesota, S to NE Texas and N South Carolina); winters S & SE USA S to C Mexico.
  • Descriptive notes

    11·5–13 cm; 10–13 g (summer), 13–20 g (winter). Medium-sized finch with conical bill and forked tail. Male nominate race breeding has forehead, upper... read more


    Song, by male from top of tree, roadside wires and in display-flight, during late spring and... read more


    Open deciduous woodlands with low shrubs and weedy patches, forest edges, orchards, edges of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mostly seeds of wide variety, also some shoots and buds of trees and flowering plants, also tree sap; some insects. Strong preference for... read more


    Season late Apr or May to Sept; two broods in S of range. Monogamous; also polygamous. Solitary or loosely colonial. Pair formation takes... read more


    Resident, migratory and partially migratory. S populations largely resident or make short-distance... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to fairly common. Recorded breeding density ranges 0·78-14 pairs/ha, but difficult to determine as nests often clumped or nesting colonial.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2020). American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 29 February 2020).