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An American goldfinch soars through the warm spring air, it’s yellow feathers reflecting the sun. Suddenly the bird opens its mouth and chirps a call that sounds like “po-ta-to-chip.” This flier isn’t looking for a salty snack. It’s using this vocalization to communicate with its flock. The bird flies on, continuing its delicious call.
WHERE THEY LIVE
The American goldfinch lives at the edges of forests and plains across North America in areas filled with brush and thistle plants. It can also be found in backyards and parks. The American goldfinch—which is also known as the willow goldfinch and the eastern goldfinch—is the official bird of Washington State, Iowa, and New Jersey.
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE
These birds are about the length of a stick of butter and have cone-shaped beaks. Their wings are black and white, and some sport a black patch on top of their heads. During the winter, both males and females boast brownish feathers on their bodies. In warmer months the males’ feathers are bright yellow.
WHAT THEY EAT
American goldfinches are granivores, which means they mainly eat seeds. Some of their favorites include sunflower, thistle, and elm seeds.
WHAT EATS THEM
Blue jays, American kestrels, weasels, eastern garter snakes and cats hunt and eat American goldfinches.
HOW THEY BEHAVE
The goldfinch is a diurnal bird, meaning it’s most active during the day. It has excellent flying skills, dipping and rising in a wavelike pattern as it soars. When it’s not airborne, or perched on plants, the bird hops along the ground searching for seeds to eat. These animals have six different vocalizations, including their “po-ta-to-chip” call.
During the bird’s breeding season in summer, male American goldfinches develop brighter feathers to attract mates. Females lay two to seven eggs. Newborn goldfinches can fly about two weeks after they hatch, but many return to their nests and stay with their parents for about another month before leaving for good.
Text by April Capochino Myers