Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. The American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis, is one of North America’s most colorful and beloved birds. They are, however, protected by law and may not be kept as pets. However, the closely-related European Goldfinch, C. Carduelis, has long been bred in captivity and has even been crossed with canaries in order to improve their singing abilities. This colorful little acrobat may be legally kept in the USA and is a great choice for folks looking to expand their collections.
The European Goldfinch is similar in size to its American cousin – 5 inches long and stoutly built. Its head is marked with alternating bands of red, white and black and the wings are banded in brilliant yellow. These wing bands are most evident in flight, and their sudden appearance usually elicits a gasp of pleasant surprise when seen for the first time.
The red feathers on the male’s face extend to the end of or just beyond the eye; on females the red feathers end at about mid-eye; the sexes are otherwise similar.
A variety of beautiful color mutations, including tawny, yellow, albino and pastel, have been developed by breeders; please see the article below for photos.
The European Goldfinch’s huge range extends from the UK to central Russia in the north and from northern Africa to the Himalayas in the south. Introduced populations are established in Argentina, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Strays occasionally turn up in the USA.
Keeping European Goldfinches
European Goldfinches may be housed and bred in large indoor flight cages. Their active lifestyles and acrobatic abilities also render them as ideal candidates for outdoor aviaries. They get along well with a variety of birds, including similarly-sized finches and Painted Quails, but breeding pairs will fight with other Goldfinches.
Both sexes sing, with the male’s song being richer and more complicated than the female’s. It really is quite pleasant; please listen to the video below. European Goldfinches are sometimes mated to Canaries in order to add variety to the song of the latter. They will also breed with Linnets and Siskins, to which they are related (the Red Hooded Siskin, also popular among finch specialists, is responsible for the red factor Canaries we know today; please see article below).
A high grade finch seed mix can serve as the basis of your European Goldfinch’s diet. Thistle seed is considered to be of great value by European breeders, and nyger seed is a favorite. Millet sprays hung from perches will keep both you and your birds occupied and entertained for hours.
Fresh sprouts, carrot tops and small amounts of chopped spinach, dandelion, romaine and other greens will round out the diet.
Increased amounts of protein-based foods and fresh produce are essential during the breeding season and for parents with chicks.
Breeding may occur in a large indoor cage but is more common in outdoor aviaries or bird rooms.
Males court prospective mates by swaying back and forth while beating their wings in a most amusing manner. A commercial canary nest, set as high as possible within their cage, will usually be accepted. Dried sphagnum moss or commercial nesting material should be available throughout the nesting season.
An average clutch contains 3-7 eggs which hatch in approximately 14 days. The young fledge at 2 weeks of age. Thereafter they are fed, primarily by the male, until achieving full independence.
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European Goldfinch feeding image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by MPF
European Goldfinch Nest image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by bukk