1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Goldfinch
GOLDFINCH (Ger. Goldfink), the Fringilla carduelis of Linnaeus and the Carduelis elegans of later authors, an extremely well-known bird found over the greater parts of Europe and North Africa, and eastwards to Persia and Turkestan. Its gay plumage is matched by its sprightly nature; and together they make it one of the most favourite cage-birds among all classes. As a songster it is indeed surpassed by many other species, but its docility and ready attachment to its master or mistress make up for any defect in its vocal powers. In some parts of England the trade in goldfinches is very considerable. In 1860 Mr Hussey reported (Zool., p. 7144) the average annual captures near Worthing to exceed 11,000 dozens—nearly all being cock-birds; and a witness before a committee of the House of Commons in 1873 stated that, when a boy, he could take forty dozens in a morning near Brighton. In these districts and others the number has become much reduced, owing doubtless in part to the fatal practice of catching the birds just before or during the breeding-season; but perhaps the strongest cause of their growing scarcity is the constant breaking-up of waste lands, and the extirpation of weeds (particularly of the order Compositae) essential to the improved system of agriculture; for in many parts of Scotland, East Lothian for instance, where goldfinches were once as plentiful as sparrows, they are now only rare stragglers, and yet there they have not been thinned by netting. Though goldfinches may occasionally be observed in the coldest weather, incomparably the largest number leave Britain in autumn, returning in spring, and resorting to gardens and orchards to breed, when the lively song of the cock, and the bright yellow wings of both sexes, quickly attract notice. The nest is a beautifully neat structure, often placed at no great height from the ground, but generally so well hidden by the leafy bough on which it is built as not to be easily found, until, the young being hatched, the constant visits of the parents reveal its site. When the broods leave the nest they move into the more open country, and frequenting pastures, commons, heaths and downs, assemble in large flocks towards the end of summer. Eastward of the range of the present species its place is taken by its congener C. caniceps, which is easily recognized by wanting the black hood and white ear-coverts of the British bird. Its home seems to be in Central Asia, but it moves southward in winter, being common at that season in Cashmere, and is not infrequently brought for sale to Calcutta. The position of the genus Carduelis in the family Fringillidae is not very clear. Structurally it would seem to have some relation to the siskins (Chrysomitris), though the members of the two groups have very different habits, and perhaps its nearest kinship lies with the hawfinches (Coccothraustes). See Finch. (A. N.)
- The more common German name, however, is Distelfink (Thistle-Finch) or Stieglitz.