Rare Backyard Bird: Lesser Goldfinch

Posted By Bob Lefebvre

On May 15, 2016, Linda Vick photographed this bird in her yard in Cochrane. It is a Lesser Goldfinch, a very rare bird for Alberta. This is only the second record ever of this species in Alberta, the first being two years ago.


Lesser Goldfinch, Cochrane, May 15, 2016. Photo by Linda Vick.

If I saw this bird in my yard and didn’t look too closely I might think it was an American Goldfinch. Lesser Goldfinches breed in  the SW United States, so I’m sure many of you, like me, are unfamiliar with it. Keep an eye out!

Lesser Goldfinch males have a black cap but can be distinguished from American Goldfinches by the greenish back (sometimes black, but unlike the yellow back of an American Goldfinch), the white at the base of the primaries, and the grey rather than pinkish bill colour. The pictured bird looks like a young male, developing its black cap.


Lesser Goldfinch, Cochrane, May 15, 2016. Photo by Linda Vick.


Lesser Goldfinch, Cochrane, May 15, 2016. Photo by Linda Vick.

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Here are American Goldfinches for comparison:


American Goldfinch (breeding male). Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

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American Goldfinch (female). Photo by Bob Lefebvre.

4 thoughts on “Rare Backyard Bird: Lesser Goldfinch

  1. By the way I think it died because of the glass panels that surround the decking on both the main and second floor decks for the house we’re renting. I’m happy the deck, for the house we bought, has spindles in the railing. I never thought an architectural choice would have such a negative impact on wildlife. I thought I’d mention it so anyone that is thinking about using glass panels on their deck could possibly consider the environmental impact on the wildlife around them.

  2. I live in Cochrane and am fairly sure that it was a Lesser Goldfinch that I found passed away on my deck, which I buried under some trees in the backyard. I am even more sad at this poor little bird passing on knowing that it was rare to have it venture so far north. It was a greyish yellow with an olive green iridescence on its back, along with bright yellow on its little chest with a charcoal beak and legs. Grey wings and tail feathers edged ever so slightly with white. I’m very sorry to have to report this news.

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