Finch to Finch: Comparing Goldfinches to Pine Siskins

Finch to Finch: Comparing Goldfinches to Pine Siskins

Elinor CohenOctober 01, 2023

Wild bird species have you feeling a little birdbrained? We get it! Identifying one wild bird from another can be challenging, especially when so many of them look alike. Take Finches, for example. While some Finch species are extremely distinct, others share features that are quite similar to their fellow fliers. 

Two of the most commonly confused Finches are the American Goldfinch and the Pine Siskin. If you’ve mistaken one for the other, you’re not alone. Luckily, there are several telltale signs that set these two Finches apart. Know what to look for and you’ll have no problem telling one type of Finch from another. In fact, your impressive wisdom may just make you the talk of the trembling.*

 *Trembling– term for a group of finches. Other names for a flock of finches include charm, trimming, or chirm.

Hint #1: Sparrow Streaks 

As if telling American Goldfinches from Pine Siskins wasn’t confusing enough, now we’re throwing another species into the mix: Sparrows! Not to worry, though. This is just a visual distinction. Whereas the Pine Siskin has heavy, sparrow-like streaks on its breast and throughout its body, the American Goldfinch does not. Instead, the American Goldfinch’s plumage is a pale brown with black wings and light yellow coloring on the face and head. The main thing to note, however, is that they’re decidedly streak-free.

Hint #2: The Build of the Bill

Pine Siskins are known for their narrow, fine-tipped bills that help them extract seeds from pine cones and wild sunflowers. American Goldfinches, on the other hand, have short, conical bills, which suit them just fine as they forage for sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and dandelion seeds.

Hint #3: Size isn’t the Prize

Relying on size is tricky when distinguishing a Pine Siskin from an American Goldfinch as the two have similar body lengths and winspans. If you’re able to get up close, however, you’ll find that Pine Siskins are a little smaller than American Goldfinches. 

Hint #4: Actions & Attitudes

Behavior is where the Pine Siskin and the American Goldfinch really split. Pine Siskins are known for being feisty. Fighting for food is in their nature, which means they have a tendency to tussle with one another mid-air and at bird feeders. By contrast, American Goldfinches tend to be quite friendly and sociable. Their sunny disposition appears to extend outward from their gold coloring.

Feeding Goldfinches & Pine Siskins: A Common Ground

The good news is that even if you do confuse the Goldfinch for the Pine Siskin (or vice versa), you won’t do any harm while feeding them. The two species eat the same types of food and generally appreciate fresh bird seed, especially when it comes from Valley Farms ®! Fill your feeders with nyjer and sunflower seeds, put out fresh water, and keep an eye on their migration patterns by reading up on the Winter Finch Forecast for 2023.

Valley Farms Wild Finch Mix Wild Bird Food


Valley Farms Hearty Delight Wild Bird Food


Whether you have Goldfinches or Pine Siskins in your backyard, keep them well fed with clean and fresh wild bird feed from Valley Farms®

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