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 American Goldfinch

Status in Michigan
Common Transient summer resident

Early Spring Date

Late Fall Date
Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
Image Credits
Count totals in the NMB Databases for American Goldfinch.

Use the links below to view the American Goldfinch reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View American Goldfinch sightings.
American Goldfinch Archives Reports
Fall 2003 976
Spring 2003 892
Winter 02-03 873
Fall 2002 372
Summer 2002 115
Spring 2002 762
Winter 01-02 765
Fall 2001 942
Summer 2001 95
Spring 2001 1484
Winter 00-01 3828
Fall 2000 721
Summer 2000 158
Spring 2000 295
Winter 00-99 1518
Fall 1999 538
Spring/Summer 1999 25

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: American Goldfinch

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the American Goldfinch
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
American Goldfinch
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text
The Birds of Michigan - by: Norman A. Wood
Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75

Spinus tristis tristis (Linnaeus)
Eastern Goldfinch (A.O.U. 1998: American Goldfinch)

Common summer resident in the south; less common in the north. Winters rather regularly in small numbers in southern third of the Lower Peninsula and irregularly north to parts of the Upper Peninsula.

First listed for Michigan by Sager (1839: 414) : "Carduelis americana."

SPRING.-Since the species winters rather regularly in the south of Michigan, dates for earliest arrivals are uncertain. Migrating flocks reach southernmost counties by late April and early May, and are still moving northward to some extent even in June. In the Toledo-Erie marsh area, L. W. Campbell (1940: 166-67, 209) notes a "pronounced migration" about the last week in April, and gives May 1 as the average date for beginning of main flight. At Sand Point, Huron County, D. W. Douglass observed an extensive movement that occurred chiefly in the last 2 weeks of May (1931 to 1933); some of the birds were still migrating well into June. The migration there "was distinctly of the streaming type," the birds usually leaving the tip of the point "singly, in twos, or in threes," rarely in companies of more than a half dozen.

Upper Peninsula.-The species was seen on and after May 17, 1936, at "Whitefish Point, Chippewa County (Brodkorb) ; and by May 5 and 11 at Huron Mountain, Marquette County (S. S. Gregory, Jr., 1929: 181; R. H. Manville, notes). First seen on May 26, 1931, at Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County (N. A. Wood, 1933:724), it soon became common there. On Isle Royale, A. Murie saw a single individual (U.M.M.Z.) on May 24, 1930.

Considerably earlier than the migrating period just indicated, Swales (notes) recorded flocks of hundreds in the Medbury woods at Atlas, south- eastern Genesee County, on March 1, 1903. H. Snellenberger wrote on April 28, 1935, that on April 22 he noticed a heavy migration of Gold- finches along the Little Murphy River, about 14 miles northwest of Manistique, Schoolcraft County: "there seemed to be hundreds of them along the stream bottom. They were flying from tree to tree. ... I counted 27 on one branch of a hemlock tree at the same time. Other trees were similarly loaded progressively as the birds moved along."

SUMMER.-The Goldfinch breeds very late; egg sets have been reported from the latter half of July to late August or early September.

Lower Peninsula.-Many nests have been found in southern tiers of counties: in St. Clair County (U.M.M.Z., 5-egg set, July 15, 2023); in Genesee County (fresh eggs, September 28, 1888-Spicer, 1889: 43); in Wayne County (Swales, 1903: 38; and notes; J. Claire Wood, 1916: 58-63); in Washtenaw County (U.M.M.Z.); about Battle Creek (Walkinshaw, 1938:3-11, 14-15; 1939&: 3-12; 1941: 126) ; and in Kalamazoo County (Gibbs, 1885: 86; F. W. Rapp, 1931: 22). In the Battle Creek area Walkinshaw noted nest building in 1929 by June 30, but usually not until mid-July or later; he found egg sets from the last third of July through August and occasionally in early September. Museum of Zoology expeditions to the mainland and islands of northwestern Huron County (N. A. Wood and Gaige, 1911: 291; N. A. Wood, 1911: 100; 1912o: 186) listed the species but did not find it nesting. A 5-egg set (U.M.M.Z.) was secured July 19, 1896, in Mecosta County. The Goldfinch was observed frequently from June to September in Oscoda County and vicinity in the Au Sable valley (N. A. Wood and Frothingham, 1905: 49-50; U.M.M.Z.); in Mason County (Chaney, 1910: 275); in Charlevoix County on the mainland (Van Tyne, 1925: 622) and on Beaver Island ("common everywhere"-Barrows, 1904:80; Hinshaw and R. E. Morrill in 1937); in Emmet County (nesting commonly-Widmann, 1902: 235) ; at Douglas Lake, Cheboygan County, and vicinity (nesting abundantly-N. A. Wood, Smith, and Gates, 1916: 14; Linsdale, 1936: 161; Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937). At Douglas Lake, 21 egg sets were found from July 9 to August 10, and nestlings were found from August 2 to August 20.

Upper Peninsula.-In many areas the Goldfinch is rather common in the breeding season; actual nesting records, however, are almost entirely lacking. Van Tyne (1923: 24) found the Goldfinch "abundant" on Les Cheneaux Islands, Mackinac County. It was common on Drummond Island, Chippewa County (Hinshaw and R. A. MacMullan in 1938; U.M.M.Z.); at Munuscong Bay in the same county (Christofferson); at McMillan, Luce County (nest-building sometimes in June, and fledglings in the last week of August-Bryens, 1939: 104; and notes); in Dickinson County (F. M. Gaige, 1914: 85) ; in Gogebic County (Leonard Wing, 1940:195) . The species has been found rarely on Whitefish Point, Chippewa Comity (N. A. Wood, 1914: 68); and at Huron Mountain, Marquette County (Christy, 1925: 213; S. S. Gregory, Jr., 1929: 181; R. H. Manville, notes). On Isle Royale (N. A. Wood, Peet, and McCreary, 1906: 125; other data) it has been observed only rarely, as on July 7, 2023 (2), on August 17, 2023 (several), on August 19, 2023 (a flock), and in early September, 1938 (flock of 6).

FALL.-The principal movement apparently occurs in the Upper Peninsula in August and September and in the Lower Peninsula in October and November.

Upper Peninsula.-F. M. and A. M. Baumgartner observed a flock of 6 Goldfinches on Isle Royale between September 2 and 6, 1938. S. S. Gregory, Jr. (1929: 181), has recorded the species only once after September 19 at Huron Mountain, Marquette County, but Christofferson, at Blaney, Schoolcraft County, and Bryens, at McMillan, Luce County, have noted it a number of times in winter.

Lower Peninsula.-On November 23, 1910, Walter E. Hastings (Van Tyne, 1925: 622) found "large flocks" near Norwood, Charlevoix County. In 5 successive falls (1935 to 1940) at Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, Trautman found the Goldfinch to be more numerous in November than in October. The usual number during these months was less than 50 a day, but 1000 Goldfinches were seen moving southward across the lake singly or in groups of up to 25, November 6, 1938, and 300 were noted in the cedar swamp at the outlet of the lake on November 27, 1937. On November 2, 1938, a flock of 500 to 1000 was observed by G. A. Ammann 5 miles east of Broman, Newaygo County. In the Toledo-Erie marsh area, L. W. Campbell (1940: 166-67, 209) gives November 9 as the average date for end of main flight.

WINTER.-The species winters occasionally in small numbers in the Upper Peninsula and fairly commonly in the southernmost counties.

Upper Peninsula.-S. S. Gregory, Jr. (1929: 181), listed the species once in winter in the Huron Mountains, Marquette County-on February 17, 1925. Bryens (1929o;46; and notes; Leonard Wing, 1940:195) has found the bird at McMillan, Luce County, in at least 5 winters since 1925 (see also Bryens and Fritz, 1932: 59; 1933: 39). His records include, for example, 23 Goldfinches on December 25, 1931, 17 on January 4, 1932, and 15 on January 2, 1935. Christofferson occasionally lists a very few Gold- finches in winter at Blaney, Schoolcraft County.

Lower Peninsula.-At Pewamo, lonia County, Studt (1928: 51; 1929:47; 1930: 45) noted 2, 58, and 2 Goldfinches on Christmas-season field trips in successive winters. In the southernmost tiers of counties the species has been found rather regularly, usually in very small numbers, but some- times in numbers totaling 50 to 75 or more in a day-as in the Battle Creek area (N. T. Peterson and others, 1938: 55; Kingsley and others, 1932: 58; Walkinshaw, 1941: 126) ; in Jackson County (Fargo and others, 1931: 56); about Ann Arbor (Duncan and Wadsworth, 1936: 71; U.M.M.Z.); and at Detroit (Swales, 1903: 38; and notes; J. Claire Wood, 1910: 40). In 1937 in a Hartland Township swamp, Livingston County, 150 Goldfinches were noted January 3 by R. E. Olsen and A. D. Tinker, and 100 on February 7 by R. E. Olsen.

Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]

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