European Birds in the Midwest – 2019 update

Please note: Although RRBO is ceasing operations, I am still gathering European Goldfinch data! Please continue to follow instructions below.

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Submitting reports (2019)
Common questions
Help with ID
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Photo of European Goldfinch by Victor Alvarez under a Creative Commons license.


A European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) was found on 11 January 2003 in Dearborn, Wayne Co., MI.  It was last reported on 11 March 2003. Another was captured and banded in September 2010, and you can read more about it here. A third was observed and recorded on 21 March and 5 April 2016.

This is a popular cage bird species, and reports of escaped or released birds are not uncommon. A request on the RRBO web site in 2003 for other reports in the region revealed a large number of sightings in the western Great Lakes, with rumors that an importer had released his stock of European cage birds. RRBO’s research resulted in the 2008 paper (pdf) (pdf, 1.5 MB). Current status of European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) in the western Great Lakes region in the journal North American Birds.

European Goldfinches are now established breeding birds in parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. RRBO is asking for the public’s help in compiling these records (see below).

Submitting reports

Please note: Although RRBO is ceasing operations, I am still gathering European Goldfinch data! Please continue to follow instructions below.

I am currently working on updating information on the established breeding populations in Wisconsin and Illinois. I am especially interested in the timing of nesting (including whether the birds nest twice in a breeding season), what types of trees these birds are nesting in, and whether they are nesting alone or in small colonies. I am also interested in what types of plants the birds feed on (year-round, but especially during May-July).

Please feel free to send me any sightings if they occurred east of the Great Plains. Retroactive reports are fine, so long as you have details.

Please provide at least the following data: date, the number of birds, the state, the county (very important), and nearest city. Geographical coodinates would be great and much appreciated.

I am especially interested in breeding birds in any state: an active nest, adults feeding young birds, or family groups (see links here for ID tips on young European Goldfinches, shown below).  Note this species nests beginning in May, earlier than American Goldfinches. Please provide as much detail about their activities as possible. I can follow up with questions.

If you are a resident of Wisconsin
I encourage you to also submit your nesting reports to the Breeding Bird Atlas project; there is an eBird portal set up specifically for this project. Even if you are not a regular eBird user, you can report your sightings: please click here for a tutorial.

I encourage submission of these records to eBird and frequently check for records there — BUT most states do not publicly display records of these species! Exceptions that I monitor are Wisconsin and Illinois, but even some of reported records may not be made public right away, depending on the area of the state. Thus, sending me the data is the only way I can keep track.

I appreciate photographs that help me verify your nesting reports or species identification, but please write to me first. If your photo is already uploaded to a web site, sending me a link is best.

All past and present contributors of confirmed nesting data will be acknowledged in any future publication.

Send your reports to: jcraves AT umich DOT edu

Young European Goldfinch.

I’ll also take records from the same states listed above of any of the following European/Eurasian species (links are to photos to help with identification): Common Chaffinch (male and female), Eurasian Siskin (male and female; similar to our native Pine Siskins which are duller with thinner bills), European Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Linnet, Eurasian Jay (links are to photos to help with identification).

Because I am researching particular, long-term concentrations of particular species, I cannot respond to reports of single European Goldfinches or other cage birds outside of the regions specified above.

Send your reports to: JAC.RRBO AT GMAIL.COM

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