Carduelis carduelis

Goldfinches are small songbirds that naturally occur in Europe, North Africa, and western and central Asia. They are found in open, wooded lowlands and usually nest in tall trees. Goldfinches prefer to eat small seeds such as those from thistles (their Latin name is from carduus, thistle) but they also prey on insects. In winter they form flocks and frequently visit bird feeders.

Goldfinches (usually called European goldfinches to distinguish them from North American goldfinch species) are commonly kept and bred in captivity because of their colorful plumage and pleasing song. Males and females are similar in appearance and generally live about 10 years in captivity.

Did You Know?

Male and female Goldfinches are similar in appearance and generally live about 10 years in captivity.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Some Cause for Concern

Goldfinches sold for the pet trade are either wild-caught or raised in captive-breeding facilities. Wild goldfinch populations appear to be stable throughout their range. However, there is evidence that wild individuals are caught illegally in significant numbers in many parts of Europe and are for sale on the black market. In addition, wild-caught birds are sometimes marketed as “captive bred” to unsuspecting buyers. If this illegal harvest continues, wild goldfinch populations might one day be at risk.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Only purchase a pet goldfinch from a reputable breeder or distributor to ensure that you are not buying an illegally wild-caught and/or imported animal. Additionally, ask for proof that your animal was captive-bred; PetWatch strongly recommends only purchasing captive-bred birds to ensure that wild populations can continue to thrive.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

Pet goldfinches that were released or escaped into the wild have established self-sustaining populations in many locations worldwide, including in mainland Australia, New Zealand, and Argentina. These introduced populations have not been well studied, but they have the potential to negatively impact native species through competition for nests or food.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner. Goldfinches are relatively easy to maintain. They require a varied diet.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring a goldfinch, be sure to research its specific care requirements. Talk to your veterinarian about the proper diet and how to maintain a healthy weight for your pet.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

All finches may carry bacteria of concern to humans such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Finches and other passerines can carry and transmit Chlamydophila psittaci, which causes psittacosis, but less commonly than parrots and often only after being housed with an infected parrot.  Although less common in the U.S., this disease is potentially life-threatening for humans. Diseases of concern to other birds also include parasitic infections, such as coccidia.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

When purchasing a pet bird, ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and for a list of any medical treatments the animal has received.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
More about EcoHealth Alliance