|European Goldfinch - page 2|
Body is mostly shades of brown, under parts are white with buff-brown wash; tail is black with white tip. Wings are black with with a golden yellow mid-bar and white tips on flight feathers. Eye brown, feet buff. Adult males and females similar, males have a slightly larger red area on the face than females.
Juveniles have body and wing colouring similar to adults with fine broken stripes; they do not have the adult's red, white and black facial and head colouring.
In Australia, European Goldfinches have only spread on cleared and cultivated land where traditional food plants such as thistles and other exotic weeds are available. Local copses of introduced trees are needed for nesting and roosting. Changes in farming practice and greater use of herbicide have limited the suitable area.
These birds are seed-eaters, taking grain on the ground or from low plants. Its light weight allows the goldfinch to collect seed from a variety of weeds and some garden plants. Small quantities of insects, caterpillars and beetle larvae are taken as well, especially when nestlings are being fed. Goldfinches live all year in small groups which amalgamate after breeding, (that is, from about April) into flocks of 200 or more birds foraging over the countryside. When feeding, birds from the rear of the flock hop over others to feed at the front so the whole flock moves progressively over the ground.
Breeding takes place from September to March. Winter flocks break-up in a surge of courtship activity and pairing is complete by late August. Nests are built from 2 to 12 metres above the ground in end branchlets of conifers and other introduced trees. The male defends a small territory around the nest which is built by the female alone. The nest is a tightly woven cup of rootlets and soft fibres lined with down and often decorated with lichens. Several pairs may nest in the same tree and share a communal feeding range. Nest-building takes about a week, then one egg is laid each morning until the full clutch of three to six, usually four or five, has been laid.
The female incubates the eggs, being fed by the male. After hatching, the male continues to regurgitate food to the female who feeds the young. After 12 to 15 days the fledged young climb from the nest into the surrounding tree and make their first flight. They rely on their parents for food for the next three or more weeks. Unattended goldfinch nests containing eggs may be attacked by aggressive green finches who steal nesting material or break eggs.