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Goldfinch Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

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american goldfinch perching on a tree branch

Birds have extremely varied lifespans, and the American goldfinch is no different. How old do these beautiful birds get, and what factors affect their lifespan? We break it all down for you here! We also go over the different life stages of the American goldfinch and much more.

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What’s the Average Lifespan of an American Goldfinch?

The average lifespan of the American goldfinch is 2 to 4 years out in the wild. However, in captivity, these birds have an average lifespan of 9 years. Finally, the oldest known wild American goldfinch was 11!

It’s important to note that while these birds have a longer lifespan in captivity than in the wild, it’s currently illegal to own a pet American goldfinch in the United States.

an american goldfinch
Image By: Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay

Why Do Some American Goldfinches Live Longer Than Others?

With so many different factors that go into the average lifespan of the American goldfinch, we decided to highlight a few of the most important ones for you here.

1. Nutrition

In order to survive and thrive, the American goldfinch needs access to plenty of food. They almost exclusively eat seeds. They particularly like sunflower seeds, thistle, asters, and Nyjer, but they’ll eat many different types depending on what’s available.

2. Environment and Conditions

While many factors go into how long an American goldfinch will live, the most significant factor is what’s around them in their environment and the conditions. Since not all birds migrate, especially harsh conditions can shorten the lifespan of some birds.

Moreover, an overabundance of competition or a lack of seeds can lead to fighting with other territorial birds, which can shorten an American goldfinch’s lifespan.

3. Size

The American goldfinch is a small bird, leaving them particularly susceptible to large predators. However, since the average size difference between different American goldfinches equals less than an inch, it doesn’t seem like there’s much of a correlation between size and life expectancy for them.

4. Sex

One surprising factor that impacts how long an American goldfinch lives is their sex. Currently, male American goldfinches significantly outnumber females, and a few studies link this to the fact that male American goldfinches live longer than females.

5. Genes

Natural selection has a huge role to play with any species in the wild, and the American goldfinch is no exception. Birds with better genes tend to live longer, and it’s just a luck of the genetic draw!

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The Four Life Stages of an American Goldfinch

Some birds and animals have many different life stages. With the American goldfinch, you can break everything down into four distinct stages.

american goldfinch perched
Image By: ftmartens, Pixabay

Embryonic Stage

All birds start out as eggs and the American goldfinch is no different. The incubation period for an American goldfinch egg is only between 12 and 14 days. After that, they hatch and enter the hatchling stage of life.


Once the American goldfinches hatch, they hang out in the nest for a while. Typically, the mother looks after them while the father brings them food.

They don’t stay in the nest for long, though, with the average hatchling staying in the nest for somewhere between 11 and 15 days.


Once they leave the nest, the American goldfinch isn’t fully mature. They’ll spend the next few months as a juvenile. During this life stage, all they care about is survival. Chief among these concerns is finding food and avoiding predators.


Some birds take a while to reach sexual maturity, but that’s not the case with the American goldfinch. By the time that the next mating season rolls around, the American goldfinch is typically ready to go.

At this point, the American goldfinch is between 7 and 12 months old, depending on when they were born and the start of the mating season. The American goldfinch is now fully mature and in its final life stage.

american goldfinch perching on metal bar
Image By: milesmoody, Pixabay

How to Tell an American Goldfinch’s Age

Once an American goldfinch reaches their full maturity, it’s extremely challenging to get an exact age. After this point, a visual glance will tell you that they could be anywhere between 1 and 11 years old, although an age between 1 and 6 is far more likely.

However, if you spot an American goldfinch before their first mating season, it’s a bit easier to tell them apart. During this time, they don’t have their bright yellow feathers yet. Instead, they have a slight yellow tinge to their head and brown feathers throughout their body.

Fully mature birds have almost entirely black wings, while juveniles have bands of white and black on both their wings and tail feathers.

Final Thoughts

Life in the wild is hard, which is why so few American goldfinches reach the higher end of their maximum age. Most won’t make it past 6 years old, but if they’re healthy enough to keep predators at bay and can keep foraging for food, these birds can live well past the 6-year mark.

So, do what you can to make their lives a bit easier. Put out a few feeders and build them a bird box or two to help them have a cozy place to stay!

Featured Image Credit: Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.