A Lesser Goldfinch is a fun bird to see while bird watching. Below are some tips to help you identify Lesser Goldfinches. We have also put together a list of fun Lesser Goldfinch t-shirts, Lesser Goldfinch bird patches, birdhouses, bird feeders, binoculars, stickers, and other fun bird watching items.
About Lesser Goldfinches
These tiny finches are a common sight in the West and have unique chiming call notes. It is common to find yellow or green lesser Goldfinch flocks feeding in weedy fields or perched on cottonwood, scrubby oak, and willow areas. Their twittering call notes often include short imitation calls of other birds. Some of their distinctive features include their color pattern, size, and behavior.
Description and Identification
Lesser Goldfinches are extremely small birds around 3.5 – 4.3 inches long with tiny stub-like
bills and short, notched tails. Their long, pointed wings span between 6 – 8 inches in length.
Like most other finches, this species exhibits sexual dimorphism through the colors of the
plumages of the sexes. Males have bright yellow underparts with glossy black upperparts,
and a large black tail marked with white corners. Their heads are completely black and can
extend to their backs or change into dull green in the cases of some populations along the
West Coast. Females and juveniles have olive-colored backs with dull yellow underparts
and black wings that are also marked by two whitish bars.
Lesser Goldfinch Color Pattern
Male Lesser Goldfinches have glossy black upperparts and yellow underparts. Their dark wings have white patches. Those that thrive on the West coast have dull green upper parts. The tail is usually black with white sides. The females and juveniles have olive upperparts and dull yellow underparts.
Lesser Goldfinch Size
They are fairly larger than an American goldfish but dwarfed by a song sparrow. They have short-notched tails, long but pointed wings.
The relative sizes of both sexes
- Length range: 3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm)
- Weight: 0.3-0.4 oz (8-11.5 g)
- Wingspan range: 5.9-7.9 in (15-20 cm)
Lesser Goldfinch Behavior
They forage in large flocks in shrubs, trees, and weeds. The flocks can often mix with other seed-eating birds. They forage individually during the breeding seasons. During courtship, the male performs several displays and feeds the female.
Lesser Goldfinch Food
Lesser Goldfinches mainly eat seeds from the sunflower family – such as napa thistle
(Asteraceae) – but also consume the fruits of coffeeberry, elderberry, and madrone fruits.
Buds of cottonwoods, alders, sycamores, willows, and oaks form an important part of their
diet as well. Their bills are useful in husking the seeds, as the birds generally do not
consume seeds whole. Like many other finches, they cling to the seed heads of tall plants
and hang upside down while picking at the seeds. Occasionally, especially during breeding
seasons, they may consume small insects like plant lice in order to consume sufficient
Lesser goldfinches feed mainly on seeds from sunflower. They also eat fruits of coffeeberry, madrone, and elderberry. They also feed on buds of oaks, willows, sycamores, and cottonwoods. In summer, they supplement their diet with insects especially aphids, and take salt.
Lesser Goldfinch Habitat
These birds are scattered across patchy open habitats from the western United States to South
America. They thrive in warm climates and can be found inhabiting thickets, weedy fields,
woodlands, forest clearings, scrublands, farmlands, and even desert oases. In urban areas,
they frequent gardens and parks in both suburban and central urban regions. Their habitats
in the western U. S. include oak, pinyon-juniper, cottonwood, willow, cedar, chaparral, and pine
Their habitat ranges from desert oases, woodlands, cleared forests, weedy fields, thickets, and scrublands. They are also a common sight in urban neighborhoods, parks and farmlands. In dry countries, they thrive in areas near water bodies.
Range and Migration
Lesser Goldfinches are another species of small, North American songbirds that form the
American goldfinches’ clade with American Goldfinches and Lawrence’s Goldfinches –
meaning that the three species all share a common ancestor on the continent. These birds
range from the south-western United States to Venezuela and Peru, with a majority of the
population being permanent residents of their habitats. Lesser Goldfinches at the northern
edge of their range – south-western and southern United States – do migrate southwards to
warmer regions during the winter, but their exact routes are still unclear to scientists.
However, migrating birds spend a majority of their winters along the Atlantic and Pacific
coasts of Mexico. The populations that range from California to Central America and
northern South America are permanent residents and do not migrate.
Lesser Goldfinch Lifecycle
The females lay 4-5 eggs and incubate them for 12 days. The hatchlings are fed by both parents and leave the nest after an unknown period. They produce 2-3 broods per year.
Lesser Goldfinch Nesting
Nesting sites are selected by the females along rivers typically in cottonwoods and willows
approximately 4 to 8 feet above the ground, though they can be found in multiple kinds of
trees and bushes. The nests are built by the females at a spot in a fork of branches that is
preferably concealed by vegetation for protection. As the females build the nests, the males
linger close-by to supervise and occasionally help. The outer cup is woven out of leaves,
bark, catkins, cocoons, and spiderwebs before being lined with hair, feathers, wool, rabbit
fur, or cottonseed fibers in the interiors. The resulting nests can host their clutch size of 3 – 6
eggs along with the incubating parent.
Bird Watching Academy & Camp Subscription Boxes
At Bird Watching Academy & Camp we help kids, youth, and adults get excited and involved in bird watching. We have several monthly subscription boxes that you can subscribe to. Our monthly subscription boxes help kids, youth, and adults learn about birds, bird watching, and bird conservation.
Bird Watching Binoculars for Identifying Lesser Goldfinches
The most common types of bird-watching binoculars for viewing Lesser Goldfinches are 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. Bird Watching Academy & Camp sells really nice 8×21 binoculars and 10×42 binoculars. You can view and purchase them here.
Lesser Goldfinch T-shirts
If you love the Lesser Goldfinch you should purchase a Bird Watching Academy & Camp T-shirt. To help support bird conservation we donate 10 percent to bird conservation activities.
Lesser Goldfinch Iron On Patches
Kids, Youth, and Adults love to collect our Bird Watching Academy & Camp iron-on patches. Our bird-watching patches help you keep track of the birds you have seen and identified. You can also display the patches on our Bird Watching Academy & Camp banners.
The Lesser Goldfinch is a great iron-on patch to start your collection with. The patches are durable and can be sewn on or ironed on to just about anything.
Lesser Goldfinch Stickers
Stickers are a great way for you to display your love for bird watching and the Lesser Goldfinch. We sell a monthly subscription sticker pack. The sticker packs have 12 bird stickers. These sticker packs will help your kids learn new birds every month.
Bird Feeders for Lesser Goldfinches
There are many types of bird feeders. Here are our favorite bird feeders for your backyard. We use all of these bird feeders currently. Kids will have a great time watching birds eat at these bird feeders. Using this collection of bird feeders will provide a wide variety and many types of birds.
Best Bird Houses for Lesser Goldfinches
There are many types of birdhouses. Building a birdhouse is always fun but can be frustrating. These 4 birdhouses have become our favorites. Getting a birdhouse for kids to watch birds grow is always fun. We spent a little extra money on these birdhouses but they have been worth the higher price and look great.