European goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

Common name:

European goldfinch

Scientific name:

Carduelis carduelis

Alternative common names:


The goldfinch is native to Europe, North Africa, and western and central Asia. It is found in open, partially wooded lowlands and is a resident in the milder west of its range, but migrates from colder regions. It is a popular cage-bird species and has been introduced to many areas of the world.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Europe, North Africa, and western and central Asia.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA – Category 2 – permit required to keep it in South Africa.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

It was once seen in the Western Cape in Cape Town in the 1890s and was probably an escapee, as were birds that nested but did not survive and were again seen in the early 1900s in Gauteng.

How does it spread?

Escapees from the pet trade.

Why is it a problem?

They have no recognised impacts on native species, but have become invasive elsewhere, such as in eastern Australia. Locally, they could compete with indigenous birds over the same resources.

What does it look like?

Description: The European goldfinch is a strikingly beautiful bird, with a bright red face, black and white head and a deep golden yellow bar on the otherwise jet-black wings. Another notable feature is the long, pointed beak, which allows this species to extract seeds from teasels. Males and females are similar in appearance, although females have shorter beaks. Juveniles have greyish-brown streaked heads, lacking the red, white and black pattern of the adults.

Habitat: In farmland, orchards, coastal vegetation, riverbeds, plantations and urban areas – almost anywhere other than dense forests.

Breeding: European goldfinch pairs defend a small territory around the nest, with the male singing his pleasant liquid song from a nearby perch. The small woven cup nest lined with thistle down, feathers or wool is usually placed among foliage in an outer fork of a tree, shrub. or grape vine. The breeding season from October to February allows time to raise two broods of up to six chicks each (typically 4-5). The male feeds the female on the nest while she incubates and broods the young chicks; both sexes feed the chicks for their final week in the nest, and for the first 2-3 weeks after fledging.

See a video on the European goldfinch –

Leave a Reply