American Goldfinch near bird bath

9 Birds That Look Like Goldfinches (Explained)

Goldfinches are beautiful birds that many people enjoy watching. They’re also one of the more popular birds in America, with an estimated population of over 7 million.

This makes them a common sight to see on any bird feeder, and it’s easy to mistake other types of small birds for goldfinches when they fly by. 

In this article we provide a list of 9 similar looking birds as well as go through the variances between them, so you can tell which is which!

Evening Grosbeak

The Evening Grosbeak is a species of finch in the family Fringillidae. The birds are mainly found in Eastern North America, and their range extends as far west as Texas and Oklahoma.

In Canada, they breed only in Ontario, but during migration and winter they can be seen all across Canada to Nova Scotia. They have also been spotted on occasion further north into Alaska, where they spend the summer months feeding on various insects. 

The Evening Grosbeak is often mistaken for a goldfinch because of its body shape. and coloring but there are some key differences that will help you identify them.

The grosbeak is twice as big, and it has a much larger bill than the Goldfinch which it uses to feed on seeds from various plants. They also have large white wing patches, whereas the goldfinch has fine wing bars.

Pine Warbler

The Pine Warbler is a bird that can be seen in the US and Canada. It has a similar shape to goldfinches, but its feathers are not as showy, and the coloration is also different, with a greenish-yellow on pine warblers versus a bright brilliant yellow on goldfinches.

Its wing bars help distinguish it from other birds as well. Pine Warblers migrate in the spring to avoid winter’s cold weather, and they come back for the breeding season.

One of the best ways to tell these two species apart is by observing the bird’s behavior- goldfinches are social birds that feed on backyard feeders while pine warblers prefer seeds on the ground or insects from shrubs and trees.  

This bird also has a nice singing voice and will sing its beautiful song while it sits on the tree branch. It is easy to see why the pine warbler is so common in areas of North America. It can be found all over, but they are more prevalent in Canada and New England.

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Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin
Image by ftmartens from Pixabay

Pine Siskin are small birds that resemble goldfinches, that live in North America and are found mainly in the north-eastern parts of Canada, along with some other places such as New England and Maine. Pine Siskin’s typically stay in pine forests during the winter, but they also like to visit bird feeders.

This bird is different from a Goldfinch because they’re slightly smaller, measuring 3-4″ inches in length while Goldfinches measure 4-5″ inches in length, and they also have brown streaking on their chest and back instead of solid yellow like a Goldfinch.

Pine Siskin’s live in woodlands in the northern United States as well as southern Canada and Alaska during summer months. During winter months, they migrate to warmer temperatures in Mexico and Western Guatemala​​​​​​​. 

One of the key differences between these two birds is in their habitat; pine siskin’s live in boreal forests, while goldfinches can be found across a variety of habitats from North America to Europe and Asia. Pine Siskin’s prefer to feed on seeds, while Goldfinches eat insects and spiders. 

Summer Tanager

Summer Tanager
Image by GeorgeB2 from Pixabay

The female summer tanager is a bird that often gets confused with the goldfinch. They can be found in forests, fields, meadows, orchards, parks and gardens throughout the eastern United States.

Their diet consists mainly of insects, and berries, but they will also eat fruit when it is available. These birds are often found near streams or wetlands because this provides them with an abundance of food to feed on during mating season.

The Summer Tanager are slightly bigger ranging from 6″ to 6.5″ inches (15-17 cm), with bigger bills than goldfinches, and have different colors, but many people can’t tell them apart. 

The male has a deep red color throughout, whereas the female has an olive-yellow body with darker streaks on its wings and tail feathers, giving similarities to the goldfinch.

The tanager’s nest is built low in dense vegetation and may be lined with pine needles or plant down for insulation. Summer Tanagers like to feed in trees, often at the edge of woods, which provide shade from the sun during hot days.

Western Tanager

Western Tanagers are a medium-sized, red and yellow bird. They have long, strong bills with a sharp point on the end. The Western Tanager is not native to North America; it lives in Central and South America.

In early summer they fly north from Mexico or Texas to breed in Canada’s boreal forest where there are fewer bugs than down south. Western Tanagers eat berries, seeds, fruit, insects, spiders, caterpillars and other small invertebrates as well as sap from trees.

They also visit gardens and parks across the continent during migration seasons. Western Tanagers are a larger bird than Goldfinches, and their wingspan is also greater. Western Tanagers have bills that are thicker, more blunt at the end, and bigger.

They can eat small insects as well as fruits and berries. Tanagers will aggressively defend their territory from other birds of its kind or different species that come too close to them.

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Scarlet Tanager

Scarlet Tanager
Image by Fotos-GE from Pixabay

The Scarlet Tanager is a medium-sized bird. The name of this beautiful and brightly colored bird originates from the male’s plumage, which has a scarlet body with black wings.

They are common throughout North America, and are typically found in deciduous forests. It can be found in eastern North America, with its breeding range extending from the Atlantic to central Texas and northern Florida.

They are often seen near water sources or on forest edges, where they feed on insects that they find on trees and bushes as well as fruit that they pick off branches or catch in midair. 

They’re most often seen in oak trees, cedar elms, or at feeders. Male Scarlet Tanagers have a red plumage with black wings while females can be confused for goldfinches because they’re more yellow than bright orange. 

Orchard Oriole

Orchard Oriole
Image by David Mark from Pixabay

The Orchard Orioles are coming! Their natural habitat is the Eastern and Central United States, but they have been seen in many other parts of North America.

They usually nest near water sources and eat mainly insects, berries, small birds, reptiles and mammals. Orchard Orioles typically breed from late March to early June and lay three to four eggs at a time.

Their population has declined since 1960 due to habitat loss. Both the Orchard Oriole and Goldfinch are beautiful birds, but it is important to know their differences.

The female Orchard Oriole often gets mixed up with the Goldfinch with its pale greenish yellow colors. But if you look closely at them both, you will notice that they have a lot of differences.

The Orchard Oriole has black stripes on its wings and tail feathers while the Goldfinch does not, and the Goldfinch also has a dark crown on its head whereas the oriole doesn’t.

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American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch
Image by Miles Moody from Pixabay

The American Goldfinch is a species of finch that is native to North America, where they live in suburban areas like parks or gardens. It has been introduced into other parts of the world and now resides in Australia, Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. 

In North America they live primarily in the United States and southern Canada; it also breeds as far south as Mexico and Costa Rica in Central America; into Venezuela.

The male goldfinches are brightly colored with a black cap and yellow body while females have brown coloring on their heads with lighter colors down their backs.

They feed primarily on seeds from various types of plants such as thistles, sunflower heads, goldenrod or dandelions but will also eat insects​​​​​​​. Their nests are made out of grasses, weed stems, feathers and plant down. ​​​​​​​

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Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch
Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

The Lesser Goldfinch is a small, slender songbird with short wings and tail. The head and neck are buff-colored with black streaks. Females have yellowish brown underparts while males have an olive green wash on the chest area.

They are found in the wild from North America to South America, as well as in Asia, in forests, woodlands, and other semi-open habitats. They feed mainly on seeds, but will also eat insects such as ants, and flies when they can find them.  

In winter, they migrate to warmer climates such as the United States or Mexico where they can find food easier than in the cold weather months of Europe.

The Lesser Goldfinches build their nests high up in trees because the ground is too hard for them to nest on without being detected by predators like cats and squirrels.

Their nests are made up of grasses and weeds woven together to form a roof over the eggs or young birds.