Late Summer American Goldfinch behaviors and climate change.

i Aug 31, 2023 No Comments by

Authored by Phil Doerr

Hopefully some of us are out seeing numbers of recently fledged juvenile American Goldfinches like this hot (panting) youngster Bob Oberfelder “captured” for us recently!

American Goldfinch baby, Cary, NC

American Goldfinch baby, Cary, NC

Post nesting, Goldfinches of all ages tend to spread out across local landscapes with early to mid-successional vegetation, supporting lots of seed producing “weedy” species! Goldfinches will soon begin to aggregate in small foraging groups and make the rounds of suitable seed patches. In a few weeks they will begin the fall molt to winter (duller) plumage and begin to all look alike! In our part of the world, goldfinches are a bit nomadic, but definitely not really migratory. Birds nesting much to the north do migrate to our area or even much farther south for the winter. The need for seeds in our increasingly dormant pollinator gardens, roadsides, and field edges will increase as fall edges into winter.

Will NC lose our 2023 Bird of the Year as a Breeding Bird? Various climate change scenarios predict that in the NC piedmont we may lose our nesting American goldfinches as the environment becomes too hot and dry to support nestling survival. We may only see these delightful creatures as winter residents from the north, absent the spectacular breeding plumage males. Check out “Audubon Guide to North American Birds” on line for American Goldfinches and scroll down to “How Climate Change will reshape the range of…” As we are now on a trajectory to hit a 1.5 degree C global temperature increase, American Goldfinches will most certainly lose 34% of  current breeding range, will only nest in our higher, cooler mountain areas, and if we fail to keep below a 3 degree C increase goldfinches will no longer nest in North Carolina at all, while losing 65% of current U.S. breeding range. The interactive Audubon website allows you to play out the resulting scenarios for each combination. Please explore! You will also see another side of this dramatic change, because while goldfinches lose much suitable breeding range in the US, they gain some suitable habitat to the north, much of it in Canada. Most North American breeding birds are facing similar challenges in the face of looming climate change.

While American Goldfinches may still winter in North Carolina, we may need to travel north to witness the stunning plumage of males in courtship and nesting in the future. Goldfinches do seem likely to fare better than most North American breeding birds, however. Most birds will lose much more habitat than will be gained by the northward march of a warming climate. Audubon report models predict 389 bird species will be at risk of extinction under the 3 degrees C. warming scenario.

And while it’s true that ecosystems are often in flux and ever changing, this current change is not natural! It is the unfortunate result of our callous disregard for the health of the planet and continued dependance on fossil fuels. We are fouling our nest and killing nature in the process.

We’ve just experienced the hottest July ever recorded on earth, while 2023 so far is filled with the one of the largest tallies of catastrophic weather events, ever. Most of these events would have been impossible before global climate warming.

So, what can we do? We must insist that our governments adopt policies for conversion of all energy use to renewable sources and we must be conservation minded in our own use of energy. Period! That’s it!  No more fossil fuels!


Remember “Lights Out Wake” begins September 10, continuing ‘til November 30, when we will pledge to douse all nonessential lights from 11pm to 6am to save our migratory birds and money! Check out “” for real time updates on migration!

Thanks for doing all you can for the birds.

Phil Doerr  ([email protected])

Wake Audubon Board


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