Wild Profile: Meet the American goldfinch

Published: November 19, 2019

By Steven Russell Smith Ohio/Shutterstock

They may not be rocking a bright yellow coat anymore, but American goldfinches are still easy to spot at winter bird feeders or in large flocks—while flying, they look like they’re bouncing through the air. The birds moult their breeding colours in the fall, replacing those flashy golden feathers with heavier, warmer grey-green and brown plumage. The winter get-up allows goldfinches to survive ultra-chilly temperatures—as cold as -70°C—for eight hours at a time. Quick, somebody needs to market this awesome parka!

What’s a goldfinch’s nickname? A wild canary—for good reason. The two birds are related, with goldfinches genetically similar to the birds that came originally from the Canary Islands, off North Africa. Gregarious little goldfinches also sound a little like canaries. Their song is a melody of high, squeaky chirps and trills. In bouncy flight, meanwhile, they have a distinct, springy call: po-ta-to chip! Po-ta-to-chip! Awww. No wonder a flock is called a “charm” of finches.

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