19 Birds Similar To American Goldfinches


American goldfinches are vividly colored birds that almost anyone in the U.S. can see from their backyard.

If you love watching for these birds, check out this list for 19 more birds like the American goldfinch.

1. Cassin’s Finch

Scientific Name: Haemorhous cassinii

Many finches eat mainly seeds and fruit, which are not very sodium-rich. To account for this, finches often eat from salt deposits. Cassin’s finches will lick salt from cliffs, visit deer salt licks, and drink salty snow as it melts.

American goldfinches aren’t quite as eager as Cassin’s, but they will happily eat rock salt if left at feeders.

2. Cedar Waxwing

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Scientific Name: Bombycilla cedrorum

The American goldfinch is an unusual bird in that it’s non-aggressive even toward predators. Cedar waxwings are also non-territorial and form large, social flocks.

They do have a good defense against cowbirds, though, which lay their eggs in other birds’ nests.

American goldfinches feed their young nothing but seeds, while waxwings eat almost nothing but fruit. Neither diet has the right nutrition a cowbird needs, and so invasive cowbird nestlings rarely survive in these nests.

3. Common Redpoll

Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea

Both the common repoll and the American goldfinch are passerines in the Fringillidae family. This is the family of “true” finches.

As members of Fringillidae, both birds have round, stout beaks that are good for cracking open seeds. In particular, they enjoy eating nyjer and sunflower seeds. They will often visit backyard bird feeders.

4. European Greenfinch

Scientific Name: Chloris chloris

Both of these species are small birds, usually no more than six inches (15 cm). They also have the characteristic forked tail and stout, triangular beaks of finches.

And even though it’s a “green” finch, the European greenfinch does have areas of yellow and black like American goldfinches.

5. Evening Grosbeak

Scientific Name: Coccothraustes vespertinus

The evening grosbeak and American goldfinch have striking yellow and black patterns that make them hard to distinguish at first.

They also live in roughly the same geographic range as each other, so misidentification is even easier. They both live from southern Canada all the way down to Mexico.

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6. House Sparrow

Scientific Name: Passer domesticus

House sparrows not only live all throughout North America but are also one of the most widespread species in the world. Humans provide them with food and shelter in areas that would otherwise be inhospitable, such as deserts.

American goldfinches also thrive in the vicinity of humans. Since they prefer open areas, forest clearing helps them, and they also benefit from feeders.

7. Lawrence’s Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Spinus lawrencei

These goldfinches are part of the Fringillidae family and share similar coloring. The majority of a Lawrence’s goldfinch’s body is gray. But their entire chests and the edges of their wings are a vivid yellow.

Lawrence’s goldfinches also have a black head similar to an American goldfinch. They also subsist mostly on seeds. They may eat the occasional insect or fruit, but seeds such as nyjer are their main choice.

8. Lesser Goldfinch

Scientific Name: Spinus psaltria

Another true finch, the lesser goldfinch has black wings and bright yellow feathers over most of their bodies, much like American goldfinches.

They also have black heads and short, conical beaks. These help them crack open seeds, which are their main source of food. Also like American goldfinches, they sometimes hang upside down on tall plants to pick at the seeds.

9. Orchard Oriole

Scientific Name: Icterus spurius

From the Midwest to the East Coast, summer birdwatchers may have trouble telling apart some orioles from the American goldfinch. This is because the orchard oriole breeds during the summer throughout this area.

Female orchard orioles are mostly yellow birds with black on their wings, just like American goldfinches.

10. Pine Grosbeak

Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator

Unlike males, female American goldfinches only have prominent yellow coloring on their heads. The rest of their body is a dull brown or gray, with black and white striped wings. This is the same with female pine grosbeaks.

These species also lay very similar eggs. Their eggs are an inch or less in width and length and are pale blue, sometimes with dark speckles.

11. Pine Siskin

Scientific Name: Spinus pinus

Pine siskins like to stay in open forests where cone seeds are plentiful. But they also forage in the same areas that American goldfinches do, from backyards to open grasslands.

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This is because they like the same seeds that American goldfinches do, like sunflower and thistle. They also hang upside on branches to reach seeds as goldfinches do with small plants and flowers.

12. Pine Warbler

Scientific Name: Setophaga pinus

The pine warbler belongs to the Parulidae family rather than Fringillidae. Despite this, they look similar to American goldfinches. Both are bright yellow with darker striped wings.

Pine warblers also eat seeds as a regular part of their diet, which is unique for warblers. They’ll flock to the same backyard feeders as American goldfinches if they’re full of millet and sunflower seeds.

13. Purple Finch

Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus

All true finches of the Fringillidae family are small birds with round, sturdy beaks that help break open seeds.

Both purple finches and American goldfinches love sunflower seeds and are frequent visitors to backyard feeders. However, house finches often bully purple finches away from feeding and nesting areas.

In one study, house finches won aggressive interactions with purple finches at a feeder 90% of the time.

14. Scarlet Tanager

Scientific Name: Piranga olivacea

Female scarlet tanagers have no red feathers. Instead, they’re olive-yellow all over and have darker wings and tails.

In addition to their coloring, both American goldfinches and scarlet tanagers make cup nests for their young.

The incubation period for both birds is 12 to 14 days. When their young are born, they’re helpless and mostly naked, with just a little bit of down.

15. Summer Tanager

Scientific Name: Piranga rubra

Sexual dimorphism is when the males and females of a species have different appearances. For example, male summer tanagers are bright red, while females have no red at all.

In fact, they’re golden-yellow, more similar to an American goldfinch. Both birds also prefer to live in open woodlands, and are sometimes parasitized by cowbirds.

But while a goldfinch’s diet acts as their defense, tanagers are more direct. They chase away the cowbirds with aggression whenever they spot them in their nesting territories.

16. Western Tanager

Scientific Name: Piranga ludoviciana

Female western tanagers are yellow all over with much darker wings, much like American goldfinches.

But the males also look like goldfinches for once. They’re yellow with dark wings and have a contrasting patch of color on its head. However, this patch is orange rather than black like the American goldfinch.

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The males get their red patches in a unique way. Many other birds get red coloring due to plant pigments called carotenoids. The western tanager, though, obtains it through a different pigment, rhodoxanthin, found in insects.

17. Yellow Warbler

Scientific Name: Setophaga petechia

These small round birds bring a cheery yellow to many backyard feeders. Like American goldfinches, most of their body is yellow. They both also prefer to nest in low shrubs rather than tall trees.

Both bird species are easy to spot no matter where you are in the U.S. They roam throughout most of North America, in fact.

18. Yellow-Breasted Chat

Scientific Name: Icteria virens

The yellow-breasted chat might only have one section of feathers that are yellow, but they definitely stand out. As brightly-colored as an American goldfinch, these chats also nest in the same habitats.

Both species use shrubs to house their nests, though goldfinches like more open areas the rest of the time. Chats stay in dense, shrubland most of the time, making them a little harder to spot.

19. Wilson’s Warbler

Scientific Name: Cardellina pusilla

Though the American goldfinch is a little plumper, it’s still easy to mistake one for a Wilson’s warbler. Both are bright yellow, but more noticeable is the black patch of feathers they have on their heads.

During the warbler’s migration, it might be easy to mistake it for an American goldfinch. This is because both birds fly throughout the whole of the U.S.

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James Goodman

James is a native Texan with a love for birding and outdoor adventures. When he's not birdwatching, you can find him hiking, camping or playing the piano.

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