Quick facts

Common name: goldfinch

Scientific name: Carduelis carduelis

Family: Fringillidae

Habitat: woodland, farmland, parks and gardens

Diet: seeds, invertebrates

Predators: sparrowhawks; chicks and eggs vulnerable to range of predators

Origin: native

What do goldfinches look like?

Adult goldfinches have a distinctive red face with a black cap and black around the eyes. The beak is short and powerful. Juveniles have a drabber, brown-grey face. The wings are dark with a striking yellow patch, and the goldfinch’s breast is a light brown-grey. It is a small species, being slightly smaller than a robin on average.

Goldfinch eating teasel seed

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

What do goldfinches eat?

The goldfinch is a specialist seed feeder. Its fine beak is perfectly adapted to extracting seeds from plants such as thistles and teasels. Insects and invertebrates are fed to young in spring and summer.

Did you know?

Historically, goldfinches were commonly kept as caged song birds.

How do goldfinches breed?

Goldfinch nests are normally built within thick cover several metres above ground. Typically, five eggs are laid in June and the chicks hatch after around two weeks. They will remain in the nest for another two weeks before fledging. Multiple broods may be raised in a good year.

Goldfinch in flight landing on teasel

Credit: Roger Wilmshurst / Alamy Stock Photo

Do goldfinches migrate?

Most goldfinches spend the year in the UK, but some will leave for the winter, travelling as far south as Spain.

Where do goldfinches live?

Goldfinches live throughout the UK, with the exception of the most mountainous parts of Scotland. They can occupy almost any habitat with scattered trees and bushes and can be found in open woodland, farmland, parks and gardens. The species is most numerous in southern England.

Two goldfinches on a branch

Credit: Tony Cox / WTML

Signs and spotting tips

Goldfinches are easy to recognise and usually travel in flocks. Listen out for their melodic, twittering call. The species will often visit bird feeders and is particularly attracted to niger seeds.

Goldfinch song

Audio: Stuart Fisher / xeno-canto.org

Did you know?

Goldfinches sometimes appear in Christian imagery as a symbol of Christ’s passion.

Threats and conservation

The goldfinch population is doing well and is estimated to have more than doubled since the 1970s. Around 1.2 million pairs are thought to breed across the UK each year. However, the species remains vulnerable to the wider challenges facing wildlife such as loss of habitat and the clearance of woods and trees.