This winged ray of sunshine is a popular visitor to backyard bird feeders throughout its range. It is so common in our area that it is the second-most banded bird in the 50-year history of the banding station.
The American goldfinch makes its home in any environment where grasses and flowers grow, from meadows and open grasslands to roadsides and backyards. The goldfinch’s dazzling breeding color develops from carotene-related compounds in its primary food source: seeds. Its conical beak is specialized for excavating the seedheads of plants such as Nyjer or “thistle,” zinnia, and bee balm. During the nonbreeding period, the goldfinch turns a decidedly drab olive-green and loses its black cap.
Goldfinches are not generally long-distance migratory birds, although individuals in western Pennsylvania do move a bit further south in the winter. A sudden flash of bright yellow at bird feeders in April and May is a sure sign of the approach of spring!