U.S. State Bird of Iowa, New Jersey and Washington -
American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch is the State Bird of three states: Iowa, New Jersey and Washington.

The American Goldfinch is a delicate little bird and the males have a striking yellow body, black wings and a black cap. Many times they can be heard as they fly overhead in small flocks. When they fly, they appear to be bouncing and almost always seem to use the "potato chip" call as they communitcate with other members of the group.

  • American Ornithologists' Union Common Name: American Goldfinch
  • Family: Fringillidae, Finches
  • Scientific name: Spinus tristis (formerly Carduelis tristis)
  • Length: 5" (13 cm)
  • Diet: Insects, seeds of deciduous trees, forbs (especially composites), grass, floral buds, berries. Young fed regurgitant of milky seed pulp; few insects.
  • Voice: Song high, musical, rapidly repeated phrases toWEE toWEE toWeeto tweer tweer tweer ti ti ti ti. Call a thin, wiry toweeeowee or tweee; also a soft tihoo and variations. Flight call a soft, whistled, descending series ti di di di, which has the same rhythm as saying "potato chip"
  • Habitat: Weedy fields, open second-growth woodlands, roadsides, especially in thistles, sunflowers.
  • Displays: Male song-flight on level (rather than typical undulating) flight, rapidly flapping wings.
  • Number of broods: 1, occasionally 2
  • Nest: In branch fork, often woven so tightly that nest holds water; of forbs, other pliable vegetation, lined with plant down. Caterpillar webbing and spider silk often used to bind outer rim.
  • Eggs: Averages 4-6 pale blue or bluish-white, unmarked eggs. 0.6" (16 mm).
  • Incubation period: 10-12 days
  • Fledge: 11-17 days after hatching
  • Longevity Record: 10 Years and 9 months - This new record was set in 2013 by a banded bird that was recaptured and released in Maryland - (data from the USGS Bird Banding Lab).

Male American Goldfinch Singing

Iowa Birds

In 1933 the Iowa Legislature declared the Eastern Goldfinch the official Iowa state bird. It was chosen because it is commonly seen in Iowa and often stays through the winter.

New Jersey Birds

New Jersey named the "Eastern Goldfinch" as the official State bird in 1913.

Washington Birds

In 1928, legislators let school children select the state bird and the meadowlark won hands-down. It was a nice choice but seven other states already had chosen the same bird.

A new vote was taken in 1931 by the Washington Federation of Women's Clubs. Many birds were nominated, but the goldfinch won out over the tanager, Song Sparrow, junco and Pileated Woodpecker. Two other States had already selected American Goldfinch as their State Bird, so the State Legislature decided to leave the final choice to school children. In 1951, children voted for the goldfinch and the Legislature made it unanimous, the "Willow Goldfinch" as they called it, was the official Washington State Bird.

50 State Birds Page

More information about the The American Goldfinch, its life history, song and identification can be found here.

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