World's Smallest Birds

Lesser Goldfinch

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Spinus psaltria

Lesser Goldfinch

The Lesser Goldfinch is a very small songbird of the Americas. Together with its relatives the American goldfinch and Lawrence's goldfinch, it forms the American goldfinches clade in the genus Spinus sensu stricto.

Males are bright yellow below with a glossy black cap and white patches in the wings. Their backs can be glossy black or dull green (particularly on the West Coast). They have a black tail with large, white corners.

Females and immatures have olive backs, dull yellow underparts, and black wings marked by two whitish wingbars.

This petite species is not only the smallest North American Spinus finch, it may be the smallest true finch in the world. Some sources list more subtropical Spinus species as slightly smaller on average, including the Andean siskin.

The Lesser Goldfinch ranges from 3.5 to 4.7 inches in length and can weigh from 8 to 11.5 grams.

SONG: The male’s breeding song is a jumble of clear notes mixed in with wheezes, trills, and stutters, lasting up to 10 seconds. They incorporate snippets of the songs of many other species, including Ash-throated Flycatchers, Verdins, Curve-billed Thrashers, American Kestrels, scrub-jays, and many more.

CALL: When mingling in a flock, they make a very common contact call that is wheezy and descending, given one or two notes at a time. They also give a couple of "chit" notes in flight. Males give a descending "tee-yer" call to females during courtship.

Seeds make up the majority of the diet in all seasons. They will also feed on small insects on occasion, particularly during the summer breeding season.

They are found in a variety of semi-open habitats with brush or trees adjacent to open grassy or weedy areas. They can also be found in and around urban and suburban areas, including parks and residential gardens.

It ranges from the southwestern United States (near the coast, as far north as extreme southwestern Washington) to Venezuela and Peru. It migrates from the colder parts of its U.S. range.

The nesting season is in summer in the temperate parts of its range. In the tropics it apparently breeds all-year-round, perhaps less often in September/October. It lays 3 or 4 bluish-white eggs in a cup nest made of fine plant materials such as lichens, rootlets, and strips of bark, placed in a bush or at low or middle levels in a tree.

The incubation period is 12 - 13 days.

Lesser Goldfinch


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