European goldfinch – Carduelis carduelis


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Passeriformes
  • Family: Fringillidae
  • Genre: Carduelis
  • Species: Carduelis carduelis

Identification characters

The finch is a small finch with a body length of 12-13 and weighs 17-29 g. . It nests in low deciduous forests, pine plantations and orchards. Predominantly a summer visitor, mostly wintering in S and W Europe. Often seen in flocks outside nesting season. Frequently forages for seeds on thistle, brier or shepherd’s crook.

Brightly coloured adults are easily recognised, especially by the red on the forehead and around the bill. The crest is black and the cheeks are white. The beak is relatively long and very pointed, yellowish-white. On the back and chest it has light brown shades, and the belly is whitish. The wing is black-brown with white spots and a wide yellow band. The tit is white, prominent. The tail is black with white spots.

Juveniles may be harder to identify, with heads in shades of grey-brown with fine stripes, lacking the red, white and black pattern of the adult.

The genus and species name, ,,Carduelis, comes from the scavengers of the genus Carduus, in winter large groups of copses can be seen on these plants, whose seeds they consume.

The sound is trisyllabic, bouncy and cheerful. The song consists of rapid trills, mewing notes and chirping sequences.


The goldfinch is widespread from Western Europe to the central regions of Siberia, North Africa, Central Africa, Southwest Asia, Australia, New Zealand and some islands in Oceania, where it has penetrated through human intervention. It is a polytypic species with several subspecies.

It is a partially migratory species in Europe, with northern populations spending the winter in central or southern Europe and southern populations wintering in north-east Africa and south-west Asia. The population in Europe represents 55% of the world population and ranges from 27 800 000 to 42 700 000 breeding pairs.

In Romania, the finch  is a sedentary bird. The number of individuals that can be observed in our country is higher in winter, as individuals belonging to northern populations arrive here during this season. The population in Romania ranges from 653 125 to 1 109 338 breeding pairs, with a decreasing trend.

Living environment and biology of the species

The finch birds in Romania are generally sedentary birds. In winter they may move to more southern regions in large numbers if conditions are unfavourable.

The goldenfinch prefer both open areas and forests. Found near settlements, human settlements, in gardens, orchards or parks, where it can find abundant food. It feeds on small seeds, buds, flowers or fruit, which it gathers from bushes, shrubs or meadows. It has a particular appetite for the seeds of plants in the Asteraceae family, such as the Carduus sedges, but it also appreciates the seeds of shepherd’s crocus species (Dipsacus sp.). During the nesting season it also eats smaller invertebrates.

Outside the nesting season, from late summer to spring, it is a gregarious species. Small flocks of non-breeding individuals can be seen during the breeding season. It breeds in the lowlands of the Palaearctic, in the temperate, Mediterranean or steppe zone. In Switzerland it nests at over 1 000 m, arriving in late summer and autumn in alpine meadows above 2 400 m.

In Romania it nests in lowland areas, but also at higher altitudes in the valleys of mountain rivers.

During the breeding season, from April onwards, it settles on dry, bare branches to mark its territory and to be easily noticed by its song and the colour of its plumage. Nests in medium-height trees. The nest is small, built of dry grass, moss and thin roots, with a cup-shaped interior lined with various feathers. The nest is made up of 4-5 bluish-white eggs with reddish-brown spots. The female broods for 12-14 days. The chicks are fed by both parents. The young birds reach sexual maturity in a few months. In one breeding season, a female may have 2-3 broods of young.

Threats and conservation measures

Goldfinch populations may be threatened by habitat modification, fragmentation and loss, poor forest management, pollution. The reduction of natural areas with skuas in particular deprives birds of necessary food sources in winter.

Goldenfinch can become victims of poaching, being caught for their pleasant song and beautiful plumage to be sold illegally as cage birds.

For conservation purposes, it is recommended to ban new urban development, including scattered settlements in forest habitats important for breeding, feeding or resting birds, and to link forestry work to the biology of the species to avoid disturbance during the breeding season, maintaining undergrowth in logged forests, maintaining and enhancing corridors between areas of spontaneous grassland including trees, preserving, creating and promoting uncultivated land with vegetation suitable for the species, maintaining and prohibiting the burning of heathland. As far as possible, the use of insecticides and herbicides should be reduced. The use of substances with minimal toxicity and persistence should be justified and applied on the species’ breeding grounds only when necessary and outside the breeding season. It is very important to control the illegal trade in glasshouses.

Breeding areas, both actual and potential, should be inventoried and studies on various aspects of the species’ biology should be promoted.


          • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 552-553;
          • Lars Svensson, Hakan Delin, 1988, Photographic guide to the birds of Britain and Europe, Passerines p. 268, Chancellor Press, London
          • Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation in Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p.380;
          • Ornitodata | Sticlete (
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