Goldfinches are one of the most common birds at bird feeders, and they’re also one of the most tolerant of humans. Backyard birders in California can potentially see them every day of the year. They’re easy to take for granted, yet they continue to be one of my favorite birds due to their exceptional beauty and vibrant personalities.
The two primary goldfinches commonly encountered in our area are the American Goldfinch and the Lesser Goldfinch. Identification can be tricky for the layman, though there are a few details that can help differentiate the two:
- The American is slightly larger then the Lesser (hence the “lesser” moniker)
- The Lesser has an olive green back, the American has a yellow back
- The Lesser has yellow undertail coverts, the American’s are white
- The American has more pronounced wing bars than the Lesser
- During breeding season, the American’s bill is lighter
There are other details to consider, but the above should be enough to make a positive identification in most cases. Check Sibley’s, Cornell, or Audubon if you need more help. And don’t worry, you’ll find they get easier to identify once you’ve seen a few side-by-side!