Birder’s Notebook; European Goldfinch

Birder’s Notebook by Bob Andrini; 28 January Entry. Being in the right place at the right time is very essential in birding.

We had been out all morning looking for winter birds and came home just at the ‘right time’. Walking into the dining room and looking at our feeders, we noticed a very whitish bird feeding with the American goldfinches – and with binocs identified it as a European goldfinch.

The field marks are unmistakable: red face; black on top of head and back of neck; yellow wing bar. I had just enough time to snap about 8 pictures before the birds all flew off. This happened one other time for us (right time, right place) when another European goldfinch visited us exactly 10 years ago in January.

In 2003 the first sightings of these birds started appearing in Illinois. The best guess was that they were released caged birds. Since that time, they have set up breeding populations in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.

Keep your feeders full and keep and eye on them and you might also get a pleasant surprise. Below are pictures taken in 2010 and this week – in the recent pictures the bird was on the wrong side of the thistle sac and didn’t allow a good view.


15 thoughts on “Birder’s Notebook; European Goldfinch

  1. I live in Waukegan, IL, just south of the Wisconsin border. For the last 4 to 5 years I have had European Goldfinches at my feeder in the spring. Usually just 1 or 2 birds. They eat the black oil sunflower seeds. They hang around to a day or 2, up to a week at most. Then they are gone & I don’t see them again until the next spring. I have never read that they migrate, but I only see them when the early migrants are returning. Does anyone have any idea what is going on with them? I have read that there is a breeding population in Racine, WI, but don’t understand why I see them here and only see them in the spring.

    1. I also live in Waukegan and just saw 2 for a few days at my feeder. I searched my bird app to ID it and had to download a second app before I could! Definitely the European Goldfinch, they’re pretty distinctive. Found an article in the Daily Herald from 2016 about them in the area. What a treat!

  2. I just saw a European Goldfinch at my feeder today. I had no idea they were in the area. Peterson’s 7th edition says they are likely escaped pet birds. But sounds like there are breeding populations in Illinois. In any case, what a treat to see something different at the feeder. I got some great photos too!

  3. I have observed that both European Goldfinches and American Goldfinches are itinerant at my feeders, visiting every day for two weeks and then disappearing for two. That being said, I have European Goldfinches at my feeders on a regular basis in Waukegan, particularly in the winter months. Today the usual pair visited the feeders and was joined by an immature Goldfinch, presumably their offspring. European Goldfinches are reported regularly on ebird for the Waukegan/ Zion Lakefront.

  4. I saw a Male European Goldfinch at my thistle feeder today along with the Common Redpoles and American Goldfinchs. Took quite a while to identify as it’s not a native and the most common apps dont count them I guess. This was a first for me; they are unmistakable. I live in Lake Villa Il … 20 miles from Lake Michigan and just south of the Wisconsin border. What a treat!

    1. We just had two European Goldfinches visit our thistle feeder today in Geayslake. It’s the first time we’ve seen these birds at our feeder. Was lucky enough to catch a series of photos before they flew off. Very beautiful birds.

      1. We were visited by two European Goldfinch today in Waukegan. Absolutely beautiful song and stunning to look at. What a treat.

  5. They have actually become very common. I used to have imported European goldfinches as pets, so I am very familiar with their song. In the past 2 weeks I have seen pairs of them in Wadsworth and Vernon Hills. I actually heard the males singing first and was then able to figure out where they were calling from. All of them I saw were actually flying around the trees surrounding 2 separate parking lots, they weren’t even at feeders.

  6. My brother and I were riding bikes through the Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest this evening and saw about 10 European Goldfinches. What an amazing treat! July 23, 2022

  7. I’m seeing a lot of goldfinches today at my thistle feeder in Gurnee, IL–just south of the WI border. Last summer, the European goldfinches were at the thistle for weeks at a time, then young ones came also. They seemed to bully the American goldfinches some, and then I didn’t see them at all in the later summer or fall. I keep looking for them to come again–never have seen them before last year.

  8. daily visitors to nyger feeders (and surrounds) in my Lincolnshire yard or the last few weeks

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