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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Goldfinch -- Carduelis tristis

RANGE: Breeds from southern British Columbia and north-central Alberta east to central Ontario and southwestern Newfoundland, and south to California, southern Colorado, northeastern Texas, central Alabama, and South Carolina. Winters from southern British Columbia, the northern United States, southern Ontario, and Nova Scotia south to Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and southern Florida.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Frequents habitats with thistles or cattails, such as open weedy fields, farmyards, swamps, pastures with scattered trees, and forest edges. In the West, inhabits riparian areas, especially those with willows present along streams, ditches, and ponds.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Open weedy fields and scattered woody growth for nesting.

NEST: Usually builds nest in a cluster of upright branches or on a horizontal limb of a wide variety of trees or shrubs, typically 5 to 15 feet above the ground. Delays nesting until there is an abundant supply of seeds, particularly those of composites and thistles, to feed the young.

FOOD: Primarily eats seeds from a variety of plants, especially those in the composite family, as well as some insects in spring and summer, fruits, and succulent vegetation. Gleans food from the tips of weed stalks, the ground, and plants.

REFERENCES: Coutlee 1968, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Holcomb 1969, Johnsgard 1979, Stokes 1950, Tyler in Bent 1968a.

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