Iowa State Bird

American Goldfinch

Iowa state bird: American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis

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Iowa State Bird Description:

  • Size: 4 to 5 inches (11 - 13 cm)
  • Wingspan: 7 to 9 inches (19 - 22 cm)
  • Weight: .39 to .71 ounces (11 - 20 g)

The American Goldfinch is a beautiful little songbird.

During the spring and summer: the male has a bright yellow body and black cap, tail and wings (with white wingbars). The female is yellowish-green with black tail and wings (with white wingbars).

During the fall and winter: the male has a yellowish-brown body and black cap, tail and wings (with white wingbars). The female is grayish-brown with dark brown tail and wings (with white wingbars).


The American Goldfinch can be found in weedy fields, young forests, cultivated areas, orchards and gardens. Their winter habitats vary as they are attracted into urban areas by bird feeders.


American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch


The American Goldfinch eats seeds, insects and berries. Has a preference for thistle seeds. Can be attracted to finch feeders using nyjer seed (thistle seed).


These finches build their nests in trees or shrubs 4 to 20 feet above the ground. The nest will be constructed from weeds, vines and downy filaments from wind-dispersed seeds. It will use caterpillar webbing to hold everything together. The female lays 4 to 6 pale blue eggs and the incubation period is usually around 12 to 14 days.

A Few Things You Probably Didn't Know About the Iowa State Bird:

  • Most finches molt once per year in the fall. The American Goldfinch molts a second time, in the springtime. The second molting brings out their beautiful yellow breeding color, supporting their nickname "wild canary".
  • The female will often leave the male, with the young birds still in the nest, to find another mate.
  • In the winter, these birds can be found in large flocks. During the breeding season, they will feed in much smaller groups.

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