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Lesser Goldfinch - BirdForum Opus

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Adult male subspecies hesperophilus
Photo © by Mary Claypool
Lake Murray, San Diego, California, 24 February 2005

Alternative name: Dark-backed Goldfinch, Arkansas Goldfinch[2]

Spinus psaltria

Carduelis psaltria, Astragalinus psaltria[2]


Photo © by Rbroadwell
San Francisco, Bay Area California, 7 December 2013

9–11 cm (3 ½-4¼ in)

  • Yellow underparts
  • White patches on wings at base of primaries are diagnostic
  • Black or green upperparts
  • Long conical bill
  • Undertail has broad black tip

Females: olive-green upperparts, yellow-buff underparts

Similar Species

Adult male nominate - S. p. psaltria
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Concan, Texas, USA, 14 April 2021

American Goldfinch has yellow back and white undertail coverts; lacks the black terminal band on the underside of the tail.


Adult males occur in two color morphs, green and black. Black-backed types predominate in the eastern part of their range while green-backed are more common in the west. Females are also polymorphic, with a rare pale type lacking yellow on the underparts except for a small area on the chin and malar region.


Southwestern United States through Mexico and Central America to Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru in South America.

Northern populations migratory, southernmost US and the rest are residents year round. Casual vagrant east to the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.


Formerly included in genus Carduelis.


Five subspecies are recognized:

  • S. p. hesperophilus:
  • S. p. witti:
  • Tres Marías Islands (off western Mexico)
  • S. p. psaltria:
  • South-central US to southern Mexico (Guerrero, Veracruz and Oaxaca)
  • S. p. jouyi:
  • South-eastern Mexico (Yucatán Peninsula and northern Quintana Roo)
  • S. p. colombianus.:


Open habitats with scattered trees and brush, especially near water. Common near human dwellings; comes readily to feeders, especially for thistle seed.



The diet includes tree buds and weed seeds. Favors thistle seed and sunflowers.


They build a cup-shaped nest of plant material in a bush or tree and 3-4 blue-white eggs are laid.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase
  3. Wikipedia contributors. (2019, January 29). Lesser goldfinch. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 09:11, February 5, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lesser_goldfinch&oldid=880764736
  4. Clement, P. (2019). Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/61357 on 4 February 2019).
  5. Watt, D. J. and E. J. Willoughby (2014). Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.392

Recommended Citation

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