- Minnesota Breeding Bird Distribution
- Breeding Habitat
- Population Abundance
- Literature Cited
A regular breeding resident and migrant; regular in winter. The American Goldfinch was an abundant species during the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas (MNBBA).
The American Goldfinch is widely distributed across southern Canada and the northern and central United States. Some of the highest breeding densities occur across the Great Lakes states west into North Dakota and southern Manitoba (Figure 1).
Assigned a Continental Concern Score of 7/20 by Partners in Flight.
Northern populations are short-distance migrants that winter in the southern United States and northern Mexico; southern populations are year-round residents. Some birds are present year-round in Minnesota and are likely permanent residents.
Foliage and ground gleaner that feeds exclusively on the seeds of annual plants, primarily composites. Insects are only consumed when encountered foraging for seeds.
Open-cup nest located in herbaceous plants, shrubs, or trees; deciduous shrubs are preferred.
The American Goldfinch was a statewide resident even in the 1900s. Roberts (1932) wrote:
Over all the varied surface of Minnesota, even far out on the western prairies if there be so much as a vestige of arboreal growth, the Goldfinch is a common and often abundant summer resident.
The species could also be seen throughout the winter months in the southern counties and as far north as Anoka. Confirmed nesting records (nests with eggs or young) were available from 10 counties that stretched from the southeastern corner of the state north through the deciduous and mixed forest regions, including Cass, Crow Wing, Fillmore, Goodhue, Hennepin, Houston, Polk, Scott, Sherburne, and St. Louis.
Forty years later, Green and Janssen (1975) also commented on the species’ statewide distribution, noting that it was most abundant in the south and least abundant in the heavily forested landscape of northern Minnesota. Janssen (1987) delineated 21 counties where nesting had been confirmed since 1970; Hertzel and Janssen (1998) added an additional 11 counties to the list.
Field biologists working with the Minnesota Biological Survey documented a total of 2,303 American Goldfinch breeding season locations as of 2014. Records were widely distributed through all but the state’s most intensively cultivated regions (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2016).
MNBBA participants reported 5,316 American Goldfinch detections in 61.9% (2,966/4,788) of the surveyed atlas blocks and in 80.2% (1,875/2,338) of the priority blocks. Breeding was confirmed in 262 (5.5%) surveyed blocks (Figures 2 and 3; Table 1). The American Goldfinch was observed in all 87 Minnesota counties and was confirmed breeding in 56 counties. Of these, 34 counties were additions to the list published by Hertzel and Janssen in 1998. Although the species was widespread across the state, it was most evenly distributed in the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands Province and the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province; it remains less common in portions of southwestern Minnesota and in the far northern regions of northeastern Minnesota. Based on the number of records, the American Goldfinch was the fourteenth most abundant species detected during the atlas.
The broad distribution of the American Goldfinch remains unchanged since Roberts (1932) first described it as a statewide resident nearly one hundred years ago. In their comprehensive review of the species, McGraw and Middleton (2009) noted that there had been no major changes to its’ historical North American breeding distribution.
The MNBBA predicted distribution model predicts that the likelihood of encountering the American Goldfinch is highest in scattered portions of east-central Minnesota, extending north through the Hardwood Hills and the Pine Moraines and Outwash Plains Subsections. Relatively high breeding densities are also predicted in the west-central counties of Lac qui Parle and Big Stone and further north in northwestern Minnesota (Figure 4). The extensive peatlands of north-central Minnesota and the dense forested landscape in the Arrowhead region are predicted to support the lowest breeding densities. A clear association with riparian floodplains is evident throughout several regions of the state.
*Note that the definition of confirmed nesting of a species is different for Breeding Bird Atlas projects, including the definition used by the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas, compared with a more restrictive definition used by the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union. For details see the Data Methods Section.