goldfinch

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finch

finch, common name for members of the Fringillidae, the largest family of birds (including over half the known species), found in most parts of the world except Australia. The true finches are characterized by their stout, conical bills, used to crack open the seeds that form the bulk of their diet. They are valued as destroyers of weed seeds; many also eat harmful insects. Since seeds, unlike insects, are not influenced by weather, many finches are year-round residents in colder areas.

The finches, which are considered the most highly developed of the birds, are widely diversified; they are classified into three groups: those with small, triangular bills, such as the canary, sparrow, bunting, towhee, junco, and those birds specifically named finch (e.g., chaffinch, bullfinch, and goldfinch); those with thick, rounded bills, as the grosbeak and cardinal; and the crossbills, rose-colored northern birds whose mandibles, as their name implies, cross over at the tips—an adaptation suited to their diet of conifer seeds.

The sparrows, genus Passer, which are field and hedge birds, are inconspicuously colored in dull grays and browns, but among the other, tree-perching finches, the male is often brightly plumaged (although the female is usually duller and sparrowlike). Most finches (except the meticulous goldfinch) build sloppy cup-shaped nests for their four to six speckled eggs.

Other species commonly called finches, especially many species kept as pets, are also found in other bird families. Estrildidae includes the grass, zebra, and parrot finches, waxbills, and munias, Ploceidae includes the weaverbirds and whydahs, and Thraupidae includes Darwin's finches.

Some Typical Finches

Goldfinches, genus Astragalinus, named for the bright yellow markings of the male, are found in Europe and North America. The common American goldfinch, A. tristis (thistle bird, wild canary, or yellow bird), is a year-round resident everywhere on the North American continent except in the far north. There are several Western species. The British goldfinch is cinnamon brown with black and yellow wings and a red face. Goldfinches are cheerful, musical birds, although the so-called goldfinches commonly kept as cage birds are finchlike members of the weaverbird family. The European bullfinch, with blue-gray plumage above and terra-cotta below, is often caged; it can be taught to mimic tunes. The chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, also popular in Europe as a cage bird, is similarly marked but with a chestnut back and wings and tail. In North America the sparrowlike eastern purple finch, Carpodacus purpureus (actually rose-brown), has been largely driven out by the house sparrow. There are several purple finches in the West, where the house finch, or linnet, is common. The rosy finches are western mountain dwellers. The house finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, known for its lilting song, was introduced to the eastern states from the West in the 1940s. In the Midwest the dickcissel, which winters in Central and South America, is valued as a destroyer of grasshoppers. Several longspurs, genus Centrophanes, are found from the Great Plains northward; the Lapland longspur is a European finch that ranges to the NE United States. The redpolls, genus Aegiothus, are northern finches that winter in the N United States; with the pine siskins, goldfinches, and various other seedeaters they wander around the country in small flocks, often congregating at feeding stations. The grassquits, genus Phonipara, are native to the Bahamas and Cuba; the brambling, or mountain, finch is a N Eurasian bird that winters in the British Isles.

Classification

Finches are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Fringillidae.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Goldfinch

 

(Carduelis carduelis), a bird of the family Fringillidae of the order Passeriformes. The body length is 12 cm. The wings are black with a yellow stripe, and the crown is black or gray. There is a red ring around the beak. The goldfinch occurs in Europe, Western Asia, and Northwest Africa. In the USSR it is found from the western border east to the Enisei River. The goldfinch settles in deciduous groves, felled areas, and gardens. It nests in shrubs or trees. A clutch contains four to six eggs, which are incubated for 12 or 13 days by the female. The bird feeds on seeds of broad bean sorrel, burdock, thistle, and other weeds. The nestlings are fed insects. Goldfinches are frequently kept as pets.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

goldfinch

1. a common European finch, Carduelis carduelis, the adult of which has a red-and-white face and yellow-and-black wings
2. any of several North American finches of the genus Spinus, esp the yellow-and-black species S. tristis
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The densities of American goldfinches and the 'other icterids' group were higher in NWSG areas than in airfield grasslands (goldfinches: t = 3.37, P < 0.001; other icterids: t = 2.64, P = 0.01; Table 5).
American goldfinches, common yellowthroats, song sparrows, and field sparrows were found in much higher abundance or almost exclusively in the NWSG areas.
Likewise, decreases in density of dickcissels and American goldfinches have been observed (Zimmerman, 1992; Robel et al., 1998; Fuhlendorf et al., 2006).
Irrespective of treatment effects, there were also between-year changes in density or occurrence of red-winged blackbirds, common yellowthroats, American goldfinches, grasshopper sparrows and grassland-and-wetland-bird species richness.
Small, brightly colored birds with a large, conical "finch" bill, American goldfinches are sometimes mistaken for canaries by some people.
Here they are visited regularly by house finches, purple finches, American goldfinches, pine siskins, chickadees and several varieties of sparrows.
Also, 59 horned larks; a record 1,366 black-capped chickadees; 25 brown creepers; 31 Carolina wrens, a new high; 48 golden-crowned kinglets; one ruby-crowned kinglet; 31 eastern bluebirds; two hermit thrushes; 2,255 American robins; one gray catbird; 23 northern mockingbirds; 2,760 European starlings; 175 cedar waxwings; two eastern towhees; 86 American tree sparrows; one chipping sparrow; one field sparrow; one savanna sparrow; 58 song sparrows; five swamp sparrows; 214 white-throated sparrows; 2,093 dark-eyed juncos; 13 snow buntings; 215 northern cardinals, a new record; 147 red-winged blackbirds, another record; one common grackle; 24 brown-headed cowbirds; 84 house finches; 449 American goldfinches; and 753 house sparrows.
But the kinds of birds that are most often attracted to backyard birdfeeders everywhere are black-capped chickadees, tufted titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, American goldfinches, mourning doves, downy and hairy woodpeckers, blue jays, house finches, northern cardinals, slate-colored juncos and American tree sparrows.
Among the larger numbers recorded this year - along with the evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks and common redpolls - were 731 house sparrows, 689 rock (Dove) pigeons, 533 dark-eyed juncos, 508 cedar waxwings, 478 starlings, 462 American tree sparrows, 396 American crows, 383 tufted titmouse, 326 American goldfinches, 275 mourning doves, 252 snow buntings, 230 wild turkeys, 217 black-capped chickadees, 204 white-breasted nuthatches, 126 northern cardinals, 131 downy woodpeckers, 111 common ravens and 101 blue jays.

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