Lesser Goldfinch ⋆ Tucson Audubon Skip to content

Lesser Goldfinch

These small, yellow finches are a charm to find in your backyard!

Lesser Goldfinch

Spinus psaltria


desert, mountains, urban Tucson

Fun Facts

Males incorporate snippets of the songs of many other species, including Ash-throated Flycatchers, Verdins, Curve-billed Thrashers, American Kestrels, scrub-jays, and many more.

There is nothing lesser about the sweet tune or striking and colorful wing patterns of a Lesser Goldfinch. These small, yellow finches are a charm to find flocking in your backyard, or local parks and weedy fields.

The Lesser Goldfinch is a small, social, seed-eating songbird that inhabits the western United States from Washington east into Colorado and Texas, and down to Mexico and northern South America. They are known to feed in gregarious flocks in all seasons and sometimes form larger flocks during winter. Interestingly, Lesser Goldfinches have geographic plumage polymorphism: West of the Rockies most adult males are green-backed, but from Colorado south into Texas, adult males are progressively black-backed. We are lucky to have both subspecies here in Arizona.

Did you know that the Lesser Goldfinch is an accomplished mimic? It is surpassed in North America in the number of bird species it can mimic in one song only by Lawrence’s Goldfinch. It’s even been heard copying a rock squirrel’s call!

To enjoy Lesser Goldfinch in your urban yard, try planting seed bearing flowers or bushes such as bee bush, sunflowers, brittlebush, desert marigold, or sage. Or, put up a nyjer seed feeder and water feature, and enjoy the sights and sounds of this active and colorful bird.

Watch this fun video by Doris Evans of a group of Lesser Goldfinches eating the seeds out of saguaro cactus fruit!

Written by Matt Griffiths