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American Goldfinch - The Acrobatic Wild Canary

Photos and article by Kathryn Mann

I love American Goldfinches. They are a wild bird, yet they look like an exotic species you would find at a Pet store. Perhaps that is why they are often called the Wild Canary. The birds are found throughout Oklahoma especially at the edge of fields when flowering thistle plants are around.

American Goldfinch Up-Close
Male American Goldfinch enjoying the Oklahoma sun near Bartlesville

The Goldfinch is a small bird measuring only about 4 1/2 inches in length. Male Goldfinches are bright yellow with a black forehead and a small white rump. Their tail and wings are black and bordered in white edges. The females are olive on top and dull yellow below.Female American Goldfinch
Female American Goldfinch

Unlike most birds Goldfinches are vegetarian eating primarily seeds and other plant material. Most other birds at least eat insects.

The American Goldfinch is a songbird, but unlike other songbirds who build their nests and breed in the middle of Spring, they wait until June or July when Thistle is present which they use to line their nests.

Goldfinch back view
The beautiful back side of a male Goldfinch

Goldfinches have lived more than eleven years.

A bird's feather is a similar to hair or nails on humans. When feathers become old or damaged on birds they are replaced. The replacement of all or some feathers is called a molt. The American Goldfinch is the only finch that sheds its feathers twice in a year. After they molt in the fall the male has the same dull coloration as the female.

Infant Goldfinch
A newborn American Goldfinch

Goldfinches are great acrobats and often hang upside down to eat.

American Goldfinch acrobat
The acrobatic Goldfinch hanging onto the stem of a tall weed

In the winter Goldfinches sometimes stay warm by huddling in small cavities under snow.



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Max      12:30 PM Thu 7/9/2015

Wikipedia says the "wild canary" is the common name for the Atlantic Canary. Not a goldfinch at all, and not a bird seen in North America. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_canary)

The article here in Oklahoma Birds and Butterflies says that wild canary is another name for a goldfinch.

I had a friend in Michigan call a goldfinch a canary, but he wasn't a birder, and I figured he was just confused.

So is "wild canary" a regional colloquialism for goldfinch, used in Oklahoma (and maybe Michigan), or what?


Joshua S. Rose      3:06 PM Fri 10/26/2012

I am afraid that you have a misidentification. The photo which you have labelled a female goldfinch, second one down from the top of the article, is not a finch of any sort. Compare the shape of its bill to that of the other birds on this page. It is an oriole of some kind; I'm not sure which species you have in your area, it could be an immature Orchard Oriole...

Israel      12:05 AM Thu 10/4/2012

Not at Crane Lake, but there were some around Duluth back on November 5th. According to the Winter Finch Forecast, it is suopespd to be a good year here in Minnesota for Redpolls since it's been reported that it is a poor year for Birch seeds across Canada.

Mandy      4:29 PM Thu 8/16/2012

Finches are some of my favorite birds! Especially goldfinches!

Gary LaVelle      10:38 PM Tue 8/7/2012

Enjoyed finding out what this bird was. I have a pair living on the edge of a field at Bridge Creek High School. They come out when I turn on the sprinklers in the evening at school. Beautiful birds. They make my evening at work. Bright yellow.


Uplifting Visions
a guide to happiness, good health, and success
Charly Mann in a Hawaiian shirt
by Charly Mann

From the age of seven I have been enchanted with the idea of living happily ever after, and have made it a life quest to find that answer. I have spoken to hundreds of people – usually older and wiser than me, and read countless books and articles on the subject. In my website Uplifting Visions I share what I consider the best insights I have learned about achieving happiness in life.

Oklahoma Birds Listed by Color

House Finch - male (carpodacus mexicanus)
Purple Finch - male (carpodacus purpureus)
Northern Cardinal - male (cardinalis cardinalis)
Painted Bunting - male (passerina ciris)
Summer Tanager - male (piranga rubra)

Baltimore Oriole - male (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - male (icterus spurius)

Yellow Warbler (dendroica petechia )
Baltimore Oriole - female (icterus galbula)
Orchard Oriole - female (icterus spurius)
Summer Tanager - female (piranga rubra)
Yellow Goldfinch - male (carduelis tristis)
Western Kingbird (tyrannus verticalis)
Eastern Meadowlark (sturnella magna)

Malard - male (anas platyrhynchos)
Dark-eyed Junco - female (junco hyemalis)
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (archilochus colubris)
Painted Bunting - female (passerina ciris)
Green Heron (butorides virescens)

Barn Swallow (hirundo rustica)
Belted Kingfisher (ceryle alcyon)
Blue Jay (cyanocitta cristata)
Blue Grosbeak - male (guiraca caerulea)
Eastern Bluebird (sailia sialis)
Indigo Bunting - male (passerina cyanea)
Purple Martin - male (progne subis)

Great Blue Heron (ardea herodias)
Carolina Chickadee (poecile carolinensis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (sitta canadensis)
Grey Catbird (dumetella carolinensis)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (regulus calendula)
Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher (tyrannus forficatus)
White-breasted Nuthatch (sitta carolinensis)
Tufted Titmouse (baelophus bicolor)
American Robin (turdus migratorius)
Northern Mockingbird (mimus polyglottos)
Mississippi Kite (ictinia mississippiensis)
Dickcissel (spiza americana)

American Crow (corvus brachyrhynchos)
Brown-headed Cowbird - male (molothrus ater)
European Starling (sturnus vulgaris)
Common Grackle (quiscalus quiscula)
Red-winged Blackbird - male (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Towhee (pipilo maculatus)
Turkey Vulture (cathartes aura)

Black & White
American Bald Eagle (haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Black-billed Magpie (pica hudsonia)
Downey Woodpecker (picoides pubescens)
Red-Bellied Woodpecker (melanerpes carolinus)
Purple Martin - female (progne subis)
Eastern Kingbird (tyrannus tyrannus)
Dark-eyed Junco - male (junco hyemalis)
Loggerhead Shrike (lanius ludovicianus)

American Kestrel (falco sparverius)
Blue Grosbeak - female (guiraca caerulea)
Brown-headed Cowbird - female (molothrus ater)
Brown Thrasher (toxostoma rufum)
Common Nighthawk (chordeiles minor)
Carolina Wren (thryothorus ludovicianus)
Cedar Waxwing (bombycilla cedrorum)
Greater Roadrunner (geococcyx californianus)
Killdeer (charadrius vociferus)
Northern Bobwhite (colinus virginianus)
Red-tailed Hawk (buteo jamaicensis)
Cliff Swallow (petrochelidon pyrrhonota)
Horned Lark (eremophila alpestris)
House Finch - female (carpodacus mexicanus)
Northern Flicker (colaptes auratus)
Yellow-billed Cuckoo (coccyzus americanus)
Mourning Dove (zenaida macroura)
Malard - female (anas platyrhynchos)
Purple Finch - female (carpodacus purpureus)
House Sparrow (passer domesticus)
Indigo Bunting - female (passerina cyanea)
Red-winged Blackbird - female (agelaius phoeniceus)
Spotted Sandpiper (actitis macularia)
Upland Sandpiper (bartramia longicauda)
Northern Cardinal - female (cardinalis cardinalis)
Eastern Screech-Owl (otus asio)
Yellow Goldfinch - female (carduelis tristis)
Canada Goose (branta canadensis)

Wild Birds of Northeast OK

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