Goldfinches Turning Yellow

Male American goldfinch, almost all yellow (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

30 March 2021

Here’s a sure sign of spring: American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) are turning yellow.

In winter both male and female goldfinches are dull. The males have citrine yellow faces, whitish chests, and black wings with white stripes. The females are dull olive brown with buffy stripes on brownish wings.

Goldfinches at Green-Wood Cemetery, NYC, March 2019 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)
Female American goldfinch on echinacea (photo from Wikimedia Common)

In February goldfinches begin to molt into breeding plumage but they’re in no hurry to finish since they won’t breed until July. At first the males have “dirty” foreheads and a few yellow patches (below). When a male is nearly finished he’ll have a few dull patches among yellow feathers (top).

Male American goldfinch turning yellow, 2006 (photo by Marcy Cunkelman)

His goal is brilliant yellow.

Male American goldfinch (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Look closely at goldfinches and you’ll see them turning yellow.

(photos by Marcy Cunkleman and from Wikimedia Commons)

3 thoughts on “Goldfinches Turning Yellow

  1. Up until a few days ago, I had 50 to 100 goldfinches on my feeders all day for months, and yes, turning yellow. Now, all of a sudden, just a few per day. They must have found fresher food! (Coastal NC.)

    1. May we’ll be a small hawk in your vicinity. Like a coopers or sharp shinned hawk. My birds scatter and won’t return until the hawk is gone.

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