Identification: Goldfinches are easily identified by their striking colours; red, black and white on the head and black and gold in the wings. Juvenile birds have a streaked brown head but the broad gold stripe through the black wings is already obvious. The wing pattern is so vivid that many birdwatchers don't realise that the Goldfinch has a white rump.
Habitat: Breeds and winters wherever there are weeds, especially thistles, on wasteground, hedgerows and areas of scrub.
Distribution: A common breeding bird throughout Britain, although less common in northern Scotland. Many British birds move south during the winter to Belgium, western France and the western Mediterranean, returning in March-April. A common bird of open ground in most of central and southern Europe.
Population: 220 000 territories have been estimated for Britain, found throughout the country except the Scottish Highlands. Also widespread in Ireland with 55 000 territories estimated. Many of these migrate southwards, leaving possibly less than 100 000 birds in winter. 7-10 million breeding pairs ubiquitous across Europe and southern Scandinavia.