Lesser Goldfinch

Carduelis psaltria

The Lesser Goldfinch is a small, seed-eating finch of the Southwest. It comes in two forms: a dark-backed one in Texas, and a greenish-backed one farther westward.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • Male Lesser Goldfinches in the most eastern part of their range in the United States tend to have black backs and napes. Those found to the westward have green backs and only a black cap. The amount of black varies throughout the range, with many birds having partly-green backs. The amount of black shown by males can vary within a given locality too. South of central Mexico, all of the males are black-backed.


  • Small bird.
  • Bill small, pointed, conical, and dark.
  • Body bright yellow to dull brown.
  • Wings dark with large white wingbars and patches of white.
  • Large white patch in wing visible in flight.
  • Tail short and notched.
  • Breeding male bright yellow with black cap and wings, some with black backs.
Sex Differences
Male bright yellow and black, female duller and without black.
Juvenile similar to adult female, except more buffy.
Range Map
Taxonomic Hierarchy


2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
     Subfamily: Carduelinae
Genus: Carduelis
Species: Carduelis psaltria
  • Carduelis psaltria colombiana
  • Carduelis psaltria hesperophila
  • Carduelis psaltria jouyi
  • Carduelis psaltria psaltria
  • Carduelis psaltria witti
Song a long combination of variable notes and phrases, repeated in rambling, intricate melody. Call a high, clear "tee-yee."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
  • Length Range: 11 cm (4.5 in)
  • Weight: 9 g (0.3 oz)
  • Size: 1. Very Small (3 - 5 in)
  • Color Primary: Yellow, Olive
  • Underparts: Yellow
  • Upperparts: Olive-green with yellow rump.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked, Solid
  • Belly Pattern: Solid
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
  • Bill Shape: Cone
  • Eye Color: Dark brown; No known change with age or season.
  • Head Pattern: Capped, Plain
  • Crown Color: Black
  • Forehead Color: Black
  • Nape Color: Olive-green
  • Throat Color: Yellow
  • Cere color: No Data
  • Flight Pattern: High bouncy swift flight with rapid wing beats.
  • Wingspan Range: 20 cm (8 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Notched Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Black
  • Under Tail: Black
  • Leg Color: Pink-gray
  • Breeding Location: Forest edge, Grassland with scattered trees, Grasslands
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous
  • Breeding Population: Fairly common to common
  • Egg Color: Light blue
  • Number of Eggs: 3 - 6
  • Incubation Days: 12
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Plant fibers, grasses, and bark pieces with lining of feathers.
  • Migration: Northern birds migrate
  • Condition at Hatching:

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Chardonneret mineur (French)
  • Jilguero dominico (Spanish)
  • Female and juvenile American Goldfinches have browner upperparts, pale bills, and lack white wing patches.

Conservation Status

Populations appear stable.


Sources used to Construct this Page:

Preferred habitats include oak savannas, woodlands, and suburban gardens.
  • Watt, D. J., and E. J. Willoughby. 1999. Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria). In The Birds of North America, No. 392 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Diet consists mostly of seeds.

Adult Male

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Additional Photos & Video


All photos 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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