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European Goldfinch  -  Carduelis carduelis
european goldfinch
European Goldfinch has a distinctive red face with black and white surroundings. Note the long claws wrapped around the barbed wire (Canberra, ACT).
European Goldfinch European Goldfinch. The same bird as in the above photograph.
map map The European Goldfinch was introduced into Australia in the 1850s and 1860s with releases in Melbourne first in 1863, in Adelaide in 1879, Sydney before 1886 and around Hobart in the early 1880s or earlier. Goldfinches had established themselves over their present range in south-eastern Australia by the 1900s. Found from Brisbane south about to the vicinity of Adelaide along the coast and inland All of Victoria and Tasmania are covered, as is the south-eastern part of South Australia, and eastern New South Wales east of the slopes. Coverage appears to have declined in the last few decades.

Aviary escapees became established in Perth in 1912 and at Albany in 1955. They slowly spread locally but then stopped and are now seen infrequently in Western Australia.

The natural range of the European Goldfinch is from Britain to Russia and north western Africa. There are eight races worldwide but one in Australia.

A small bird (about 13 centimetres). Adults have a distinctive red face with black and white surrounds; the crown is black extending into crescents down the sides of the head; a white band runs from ear to ear under the chin. Lores (between beak and eyes) are black. Beak is bone-coloured with a black tip.

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.



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