Carduelis tristis Order: PASSERIFORMES Family: Finches (Fringillidae)
The male is a small, noisy finch with a bright yellow body, black cap, wings, and tail, and white rump and undertail coverts. Female is duller with olive back and lacks black cap and yellow shoulder bars.
Winter male has olive-gray to olive-brown upperparts, paler underparts, yellow shoulder bar, white wing bar, dark bill, and may show black on forehead and yellow on throat and face. Winter female is duller with buff wing and shoulder bars, and lacks yellow and black on face and head.
Juvenile resembles winter female but has yellow wash on throat and breast.
The American Goldfinch is a bird of many aliases: wild canary, yellowbird, lettuce bird, and thistle bird, just to name a few.
Ask a gardening enthusiast and you might hear the name “lettuce bird” due to the bird’s practice of nibbling at the tender young leaves of this vegetable. The American goldfinch looks similar to a canary at a pet store and so sometimes is called "wild canary" or "yellowbird".
Another descriptive name, is “thistle bird.” It has long been known that thistle plants and goldfinch are almost inseparable, and even its genus name, Carduelis, is from the Latin word carduus, meaning “thistle”. Goldfinches rely heavily on thistle plants as a source of food and for nest-building materials. A research study in Michigan observed Goldfinches always liked to nest near an abundant supply of thistle seed.
Goldfinches delay the start of their nesting behavior until the thistles come into bloom so they can anticipate an abundant and reliable supply of seeds for their young. So keep your WBU finch feeder filled with fresh Nyjer® (thistle) seed to welcome the American Goldfinch to your backyard refuge.