Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria)


French: Chardonneret mineur German: Mexikozeisig Spanish: Jilguero menor

Fringilla psaltria


, 1822,

#R, Arkansas River near mountains [= near Colorado Springs], Colorado, USA


Race hesperophilus distinctive, differing in its green vs black cheeks, nape and back (3); slightly duller underparts (1); slightly smaller size (allow 1); broad hybrid zone (1); but on recorded evidence voice identical. Proposed races mexicanus and arizonae included in nominate and hesperophilus, respectively, and same study suggested that last-named race represents simple genetic polymorphism of nominate race#R. Five subspecies recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • S. p. hesperophilus (Oberholser, 1903) – Green-backed Goldfinch – W USA (S from Washington, E to N Utah and C Arizona) S to NW Mexico (Baja California and S to S Sonora).
  • S. p. witti P. R. Grant, 1964 – Tres Marías Is, off W Mexico.
  • S. p. psaltria (Say, 1822) – Black-backed Goldfinch – WC USA (Colorado and W Oklahoma) S to S Mexico (C Veracruz and Oaxaca).
  • S. p. jouyi (Ridgway, 1898) – SE Mexico (N Yucatán Peninsula and Mujeres I) and NW Belize.
  • S. p. colombianus (Lafresnaye, 1843) – S Mexico (Chiapas) S, discontinuously, to N & W Colombia, N Venezuela, N & S Ecuador and NW Peru.
  • Descriptive notes

    9–11 cm; 8–11·5 g (hesperophilus), 6–9 g (witti). Small, stocky and short-tailed finch with stout bill, rounded wings and notched... read more


    Song, from top of tree, from late winter through to end of breeding season, similar to that of ... read more


    Lowland and lower montane subtropical and temperate woodlands, including oak (Quercus),... read more

    Food and feeding

    Principally seeds, buds and fruits of wide variety of composite plants and trees; also small quantity of insects. Seeds taken from more... read more


    Season Apr–Oct; one brood. Monogamous. Loosely colonial, and territorial. Pair formation little known, apparently occurs either... read more


    Resident, partial migrant and nomadic. Those breeding in N and in colder areas of WC USA move S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally common in most of range; uncommon in C Guatemala, and local and rare in Ecuador. First recorded in Belize in 1998, and small... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2020). Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria). 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 27 February 2020).