Wildlife In Focus | European Goldfinch

David Coultham

Species Guide: European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

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Video | Everything You Need To Know About The Goldfinch

Conservation Status

Goldfinch numbers in the British Isles decreased drastically during the late 20th Century and was attributed to increased agricultural activity and the associated reduction in weed seed available to the birds. So much so, that they were an Amber-listed species in the U.K. at that time. Since then, however, numbers have continued to grow steadily due to the availability and variety of garden bird feed. Consequently, they are now Green-listed in the U.K. The International Union for Conservation of Nature have the Goldfinch listed as Least Concern globally.

Conservation Status

Conservation Status

Did You Know? During the 19th century, Goldfinches were widely kept in cages as a songbird. During this period thousands of birds were taken from the wild4.


Goldfinches are one of the most striking members of the finch family. Males and females look alike with red face patches and bibs framed with a white collar, albeit the females’ red face patch is slightly smaller than the males. Their wings are predominantly black with white spots with a very prominent yellow wing patch. Juvenile Goldfinches are easily identified as they lack the red face patch.


Goldfinches are seed-eating specialists and are perfectly evolved to extract seeds from plants such as teasels and thistles. They will also feed their young invertebrates.


They can be found pretty much across the entirety of the British Isles except for on the higher ground. Their preferred habitat is where there is an abundance of seeds available to them such as reed beds. However, they now appear in their greatest numbers in urban environments due to the availability of bird feeders.

Note that this map is a rough illustration of animal distribution across the UK1, whereby light green indicates established populations.

Did You Know? The first official records of Goldfinches in the U.K. dates back to Anglo Saxon times, although it is highly likely they were resident long before this.


Breeding pairs will accompany each other, although the task of nest building is carried out solely by the female. The nest is typically constructed high in the canopy of trees from moss & lichen, and then lined with plant down. The female will also use spider webs to ensure that the nest stays attached to the tree.

Eggs are typically laid between late April and July and consist of up to 5 eggs which are incubated for up to 2 weeks and are fully fledged after a further 2 weeks. Both parents take on the role of feeding the youngsters. Breeding pairs will normally have two broods each year, but they can have up to three broods if conditions are favorable.

Goldfinches have a very striking song and this as well as their striking appearance contributed to them being taken from the wild and kept as caged birds.

Goldfinch Song:

Jorge Leitão, xeno-canto.org


Wing Length275 to 82 mm
Body Weight314 to 18 grams
Longevity2 Years


The sparrowhawk is their main predator.


  1. Population data based on BTO assessment
  2. Featherbase
  3. RSPB
  4. Newton, Ian (1972). Finches. The New Naturalist, Volume 55. London: Collins. ISBN 0-00-213065-3.
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