Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Family: Fringillidae (Finches)

You can find these brightly coloured birds all over the UK, in parks, gardens and farmland. Anywhere that had seeding plants for them to feast on. Most goldfinches spend the year in the UK, but some will leave for the winter, travelling as far south as Spain.

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Alert Status:

Green - 150% increase ↑

Estimated number of UK breeding

pairs: 1.65 million (updated 2016)

Listen to goldfinch song


Adult goldfinches have a distinctive red face with a black cap and black around the eyes.  Their pale sharp bill, perfectly suited to removing seeds from plants. Their backs are brown, with black wings with a striking broad yellow panel. The goldfinch’s breast is a light brown-grey. Juveniles are similar but they lack the distinctive head colouration, and instead have a plain grey head, with duller wings than the adult.

Average Length: 12-13cm

Average Lifespan: 2-3 Years

Average Wingspan: 21-25cm

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Goldfinch diet

The goldfinch is a specialist seed feeder. Its fine beak is perfectly adapted to extracting seeds from plants.  They love to extract the seeds from thistles and teasels. They forage less frequently on the ground and normally concentrate on seeds that occur on medium height bushes and plants. Occasionally eats seeds from trees such as birch, larch, or alder, and more frequently visiting bird tables and feeders in recent years.

How to feed: Hanging feeders    
What to feed:
 Niger seeds, sunflower hearts and mixed seeds.

Goldfinch breeding and nesting information

Usually constructed in a tree towards the branch. The outer cup is mostly made of moss, grass, and stems of plants, with the inner cup made comfortable with hair and feathers. The first clutches are normally laid between late April and July, with 2 broods laid during this time. Each clutch has around 5-6 eggs, which are incubated for 2 weeks by the female. After another two weeks being fed by the parents, the chicks fledge.

Threats to goldfinches

Goldfinches are of green status herein the UK, and of least concern globally. However, goldfinches have been hit by land use change and changes in agricultural practices. The seeds we provide at our feeding tables have somewhat marginally offset the reduction in weed seeds available in fields.

How you can help

·       Keep a constant supply of fresh, clean water available year-round.

·       Planting teasels in your garden would no doubt attract these beautiful birds.

·       Keep feeders stocked up with seeds during wintertime at regular intervals each day.

Fascinating Fact

Goldfinches are prevalent in renaissance art, with many religious paintings depicting goldfinches as a symbol of healing, or the fragility of life. Raphael’s Madonna of the goldfinch is one such image, where a baby Jesus holds the goldfinch and is said to symbolise the fragility of life and his sacrifice.
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Biddle, L.E., Broughton, R.E., Goodman, A.M., Deeming, D.C. (2018) Composition of Bird Nests is a Species-Specific Characteristic. Avian Biology Research. 11(2):

BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Carduelis carduelis. Downloaded from on 20/06/2022.  

Callahan, D. (2014) A history of birdwatching in 100 objects. Bloomsbury Publishing, London, UK.

Conder, P.J. (1948) The breeding biology and behaviour of the continental goldfinch Carduelis Carduelis.Ibis. 90(4): 493-525.

Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford (, accessed on 28 March 2022)

Stanbury, A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A.,Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G., Win, I. (2021) The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds. 114 

Woodward, I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. & Noble, D. (2020)Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.

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