Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) are highly vocal birds that can be seen flying noisily around open places and scrub.


Lesser Goldfinches have yellow underparts and throat. They have greenish olive backs and a dark conical bill. Their dark wings and tail are barred with white. Males have a black cap and have generally brighter plumage than females. Immature males have less distinct caps and their backs are more brownish than green.

The nape and back color of the Lesser Goldfinch varies from black in Texas and Mexico to green along the Pacific coast.

Lesser Goldfinches are 3 1/2-4 1/4 inches (9-11 centimeters) in length with a wingspan of 6-6 3/4 inches (15-17 centimeters). They weigh 3/8 ounces (10 grams).


Lesser Goldfinches aren't picky in their choice of habitat, which includes dedicious and coniferous woodlands, thickets, desert oases, parks, and gardens. This bird lives in the western part of North America, occuring from California to Texas during the breeding season and winters in Mexico.


Lesser Goldfinches eat a range of weed seeds. They also eat insects, especially aphids, when available. While feeding, they constantly zip about and jerk their tails. They are social, forming flocks near feeding sites and watering holes, sometimes along with other similar species.

During breeding season, which lasts from April-September, the male establishes a territory and attracts a female into his territory by singing atop tall trees. When a female arrives, the male chases the female, darting through the foliage at high speeds. Eventually they will land on the same branch and preform a courtship display, stretching eachothers' necks to touch bills while singing softly. After a few days, the male begins to feed the female, transferring food gathered in his bill.

Lesser Goldfinch nests are well concealed cups about 3 inches wide and one inch deep made of plant materials and lined with hairs and feathers. They are planted 10-13 feet high up in densly foliaged trees. They will have only 1 brood per year containing 4 eggs in each. The pale blue, unmarked eggs are tiny. When the eggs hatch, the chicks are naked and helpless. They will live up to six years.

These small goldfinches have beautiful voices. Calls have descending peeyee like sounds and 2-note tee-tee sounds, with second note higher. The song also includes a rapid dididit and various other warbles and trills.

Lesser Goldfinches have undulating flight patterns with dips; similar to other goldfinches.


The global population for the Lesser Goldfinch is stable with a small increase. Human expansion is likely benifiting this species.



  • They are also called Jilguero Menor (in Spanish) and Chardonneret mineur (in French).
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