About Yellow Finches


That pretty yellow finch in your yard is formally known as the American goldfinch, found throughout the United States. During the spring you'll easily distinguish the male goldfinch with his bright yellow feathers and black and white wings. In the winter he looks more like the female of the species, showing duller plumage. The bird you see flitting around outside is not the same as the pet yellow finch, bred for captivity.

American Goldfinch

Identifying the American Goldfinch

According to National Geographic, the male American goldfinch is not like any other finch. His bright yellow plumage and black cap sets him apart from other wild finches. The female of the species isn't nearly as showy, with olive colored plumage on her back. Both genders have a conical bill, which helps identify them as finches, and pointed, notched tails. During the winter months, both the male and female take on a drab, brownish hue with darker wings showing light wing bars. If you listen, you'll may be able to identify the American goldfinch by his call of "per-chick-o-ree."

American Goldfinch Habitat & Diet

The American goldfinch is common throughout much of the United States most of the year, though the southern portion of the country usually sees him only in the winter. He likes to eat thistle and seed, so he's often found foraging in floodplains and weedy fields as part of a flock. He'll search trees, shrubs and weeds for food, which also provide him insects, buds, sap and bark. Backyard feeders also lure him, particularly in the winter months.

American Goldfinch Life

The American goldfinch's diet affects his mating patterns. He'll wait until June or July to nest, after plants such as milkweed and thistle produce seeds he uses for nest-building and feeding his young. Nests are usually built in shrubs and trees, no higher than 30 inches above ground. The female lays between two and seven eggs and spends almost two weeks incubating her eggs. Both the male and female goldfinch assume feeding chores; young goldfinches leave the nest between 11 and 17 days after hatching.


  • The American goldfinch is the state bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington.

Pet Finches

If the look or the song of the American goldfinch is alluring, you'll have to keep admiring him from afar. Wild goldfinches are not suitable for pets and in fact, many states have laws prohibiting keeping wildlife as pets. You can choose from a variety of domestic finches if you're interested in having a pretty finch in your home. The canary is a familiar yellow bird, and though you may not have realized it, he's actually a finch. If you aren't set on a yellow finch, you can choose among the zebra finch, Gouldian finch and society finch to find your ideal pet bird. The canary is more of a solitary bird, compared to the other pet finches who prefer the company of other birds and should be kept in pairs or groups.

Finch Care

Pet finches require ample space to move and fly about, approximately 3 to 4 square feet per pair of finches. The cage should be outfitted with toys and a variety of perches in different sizes and be secure so its occupants can't escape and fly away. A finch mix of seed and pellets is a diet staple, with fresh fruits and vegetables, millet and hard-boiled egg added as supplements. Fresh water, in a dish in the bottom of the cage, should always be available, and cuttlebones or other calcium sources are also necessary.

Finches can adapt to household temperatures but their cage should be kept away from drafts, such as open doors and windows and air vents. Sleep is important to finches; if the cage is in an active area, such as where the family watches television, a smaller sleeping cage in a quiet area will allow your birds to get some rest. Otherwise, draping the cage at bedtime will give your birds an opportunity to sleep in peace.

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