Iowa State Bird - Eastern Goldfinch


Eastern Goldfinch

 (Carduelis tristis)
Adopted in 1933.


The Iowa Legislature designated the Eastern Goldfinch, also known as the Wild Canary, as the official state bird in 1933. It was chosen as the state bird because it is commonly found in Iowa and often stays through the winter.

Seeds from dandelions, sunflowers, ragweed, and evening primrose are the main source of food for the Eastern Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis). In late July or early August they build their nests from plant materials and line them with thistledown. The pale blue-white eggs of the Eastern Goldfinch incubate for two weeks and the young birds leave the nest when they are two to three weeks old.

A small finch, 13 cm (5 in) from tip of bill to tip of tail. The top of the male's head is topped with black. The bright yellow body has black wings and tail. The base of the tail is white above and below. The female has a dull olive-yellow body with a brown tail and wings. The male goldfinch acquires the same dull plumage in the winter months. Females in both seasons are duller than males.

The short breeding season begins in July and lasts until mid-September. Breeding habitat is typically weedy fields with shrubs, but the Goldfinch will sometimes nest in open woodlands. The female builds a cup-shaped nest less than 1-10 m (1-30 ft) above ground in a shrubby plant or coniferous tree. The female lays 4 - 6 pale blue eggs, which she incubates for 12-14 days. The male feeds the female on the nest. When the eggs hatch, the female feeds the young regurgitated seeds. Nestlings are altricial and fledge after about 15 days. The parents continue to feed the begging fledglings for up to 3 more weeks. Some females are sequentially polyandrous. After the first brood hatches, the female leaves the brood in care of their father and finds another male for a second nesting attempt.

During the winter, the American Goldfinch migrates. This species often forms large foraging flocks, sometimes with other species, including Chickadees, siskins, and other finches. Preferred foraging areas include weedy and cultivated fields, orchards, and flood plains. The Goldfinch forages mainly on seeds of thistle and other many-seeded flowers, grasses, and deciduous trees. Predators include snakes, birds, cats, and squirrels. The Brown-headed Cowbird sometimes lays one egg in the Goldfinch nest, which reduces Goldfinch clutch size. Although the Cowbird egg usually hatches, the Cowbird nestling usually does not survive, probably because it is not well suited for the diet of seeds.

In winter, the American Goldfinch occurs throughout Georgia where suitable habitat is present. It may be found year-round in the northern parts of the state. The species' range extends throughout the United States

Kingdom Animalia -- animals
   Phylum Chordata -- chordates
      Subphylum Vertebrata -- vertebrates
         Class Aves -- birds
            Order Passeriformes -- perching birds
               Family Fringillidae -- buntings, finches, grosbeaks, old world finches, sparrows
                  Genus Carduelis Brisson, 1760 -- goldfinches
                     Species Carduelis tristis (Linnaeus, 1758) -- american goldfinch, Jilguero canario