European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
spanwidth min.: 22 cm
spanwidth max.: 25 cm
size min.: 13 cm
size max.: 15 cm
incubation min.: 11 days
incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 13 days
fledging max.: 18 days
eggs min.: 3
eggs max.: 6
Thistle Finch, Gold Linnet, Gold Spink, Foolscoat
One of Ireland's top-20 most widespread garden birds.
Status: Resident. Some additional birds may arrive from Continent in winter.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: Smaller than a Chaffinch, this brightly-coloured finch has become a familiar sight at garden nut feeders in recent years. Striking black and yellow wings usually catch the eye first, but the scarlet red "face" and black and white head markings are equally striking, set off against a rather plain brown back and whitish underside. The tail is black with white spots and the rump white. Very active, has a bounding flight and can occur in large flocks.
Similar Species: Greenfinch, Chaffinch
Call: Song a liquidy, rather quiet string of twitters, not unlike a Swallow. Anxiety note a questioning "queue", rising towards end.
Diet: Mostly seeds - especially fine seeds of grasses and thistles. Will readily use peanut feeders.
Breeding: Breeds throughout Ireland - in hedgerows, orchards, parks and gardens. Delicate nest of moss, hairs and feathers in fork, quite high in hedge or tree.
Where to See: Common and widespread in Ireland.
Small, delicate, beautifully marked finch, with noticeably pointed bill and light dancing flight. At all ages, displays diagnostic shining, golden-yellow panel along center of black wing. Adult has unique head pattern of seemingly vertical bands of red-white-black and has tawny-brown back contrasting with wings, bold whitish rump, and black tail. Voice distinctive. Sexes closely similar, little seasonal variation.
Breeds over west Palearctic north to isotherms of 17'C in boreal, temperate, Mediterranean, and steppe zones, both Atlantic and continental. Predominantly in lowlands, but in Switzerland breeds generally up to 1000 m, and occurs in late summer and autumn up to 2400 m, resorting to alpine meadows and areas near chalets. In breeding season, shows preference for orchards, parks, gardens, avenues, and tree nurseries, often in or near human settlements, and especially where patches of tall weeds and other concentrated food sources are present. Also favours streamside of fen woodlands, open or fringe woodlands and heath lands, and commons with well-grown hawthorn, gorse, and other scrub or thicket species.
Carduelis carduelis is a widespread resident across most of Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global range. Its European breeding population is extremely large (>12,000,000 pairs), and was stable between 1970-1990. Although there were declines in a few countries-notably Turkey-during 1990-2000, populations were stable or increased across the vast majority of Europe, and the species underwent a slight increase overall.
Small seeds, mainly Compositae. In breeding season, also small numbers of invertebrates. Prefers seeds in milky, half-ripe state, so changes food plants constantly over year, and continually on move from one patch of suitable species to another, which can be several km away, sometimes following the same route every day. Generally takes seeds directly from flower or seed-head on plant, mostly on herbs, rarely grasses, in wasteland, open countryside, copses, etc., less often in parks or gardens. In winter regularly in trees, principally alder and pine.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 23,000,000-57,000,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
Breeding starts late May to mid July in Britain, first half of May to early July in Finland, end of may to mid June in Germany, April-May in North Africa, May-June in Azores. Nest site is Well hidden in inaccessible outermost twigs of tree, and cover seems more important than support. Nest is a very neat and compact cup of moss, roots, grass, and spider silk, which sometimes binds foundation to twigs, thickly lined with plant down, wool, hair, and occasionally feathers. 4-6 eggs are laid, incubation, 9-14 days by female only.
Mainly resident and dispersive. In the winter they group together to form flocks of up to about 40 birds, occasionally more. Northern birds can move further South to escape extreme cold