Meet the 3 Types of Goldfinches in the United States

There are three types of goldfinches across the United States. Learn what these goldfinch species look like and where to find them.

Goldfinches are one of the birds that people most commonly want to attract to their bird feeders and backyards. Although many people are familiar with the American goldfinch, they might not realize there are actually three goldfinch species in the United States. Here’s a little information about each of the three types of goldfinches.

Bnbbyc18 Sara WunderlichCourtesy Sara Wunderlich
Male American goldfinch

American Goldfinch

This species is the most widespread of the three types of goldfinches and can be found throughout almost the entire country. The American goldfinch is so beloved, it’s the state bird of three states. It’s an extremely common feeder bird, so if you have bird feeders, you are likely familiar with this vibrant bird already. In winter, the males molt into dull yellow plumage colors, so you might not realize they stick around all year.

female goldfinchCourtesy Martha Tully
Female American goldfinch

Female American goldfinches aren’t as bright yellow as males. “While out trying to photograph hummingbirds this summer, this female goldfinch stopped by looking for sunflower seeds. She briefly stopped atop a gladiola flower where I was able to capture this photo. I just love how she stopped and turned for me,” says Martha Tully.

Check out the best finch feeders to serve thistle seed.

Lesser Goldfinch

Goldfinches of the USRob Ripma
Male lesser goldfinch in south Texas

Both lesser and Lawrence’s goldfinches are western species that do not normally occur in the eastern U.S. The lesser goldfinch has a larger range and is more common. In the eastern part of their range, lesser goldfinches have a black back but farther west, they have a greenish back. Like American goldfinches, they mostly eat seeds and often visit bird feeders. Look for them in mixed flocks with other finches and pine siskins.

female lesser goldfinchCourtesy Anne Girton
Female lesser goldfinch

“Last spring, I had the pleasure of visiting Tucson, Arizona, when plants were exploding with blooms and wildlife was everywhere. I’ll admit, I got a little obsessed with getting the perfect photo of a hummingbird. But in doing so, I realized I was overlooking many other beautiful birds, like this female lesser goldfinch. This photo is one of my favorites because of how the flowers frame the bird,” says Anne Girton of Edina, Minnesota.

Don’t miss 20 super pretty pictures of finches.

Lawrence’s Goldfinch

Goldfinches of the USRob Ripma
This photo shows a female (left) and male Lawrence’s goldfinch.

The Lawrence’s goldfinch is found only in the far western United States and has the most limited range of the three types of goldfinches. Males are small gray finches with a black face patch and lemon yellow belly. Females have plain grayish faces. Lawrence’s goldfinches have an interesting migration pattern. Instead of typical north-south migration, they move more east-west, going from the coast during the breeding season and moving inland for the non-breeding season.

Lawrence's Goldfinch Getting a Drinkdrferry/Getty Images
A male Lawrence’s goldfinch in San Bernardino County, California

This species breeds in California but winters through southern Arizona, New Mexico and northwest Mexico.

Next, learn how to tell the difference between a yellow warbler vs a goldfinch.

Rob Ripma
Rob is a lifelong Indiana resident and co-owner of Sabrewing Nature Tours. He has birded extensively throughout the Americas and also spent time birding in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Rob is currently on the executive boards of two organizations: Past President of the Board of the Amos Butler Audubon Society in Indianapolis (after leading the board as President for 6 years) and Secretary for Ohio’s Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO). He also serves as the field trip coordinator for BSBO’s Biggest Week in American Birding annual event. Rob sat on the executive board of the Indiana Audubon Society for three years as Treasurer and Vice President. He is a co-founder of the Indiana Young Birders Club and speaks at a variety of organizations and schools about birds and birding to share his knowledge and experiences in the field. His leadership and expertise led to Rob working as the primary bird blogger for Birds & Blooms Magazine from 2013-2017. Rob enjoys working with both new and experienced birders of all ages and believes that teaching people about birds will not only increase interest in birding but also help them better understand why we must work to protect them and their habitats. Additionally, he loves educating others about the positive impact nature tourism can have on local economies, especially in developing countries. This passion led to his involvement in the production of a PBS television program called, “Flight Path: The World of Migratory Birds”, where a crew accompanied him on a tour to Panama to highlight and bring to life the effect that birds and birding have on both the people that see them and those who work and live in areas visited by birders and nature lovers. Rob graduated from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business in 2008 and lives in Carmel, Indiana with his wife and daughter.