European Birds in the Midwest

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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.  This bird was among thousands of others observed in a 20-acre field of sunflowers, planted by Ford Motor Co. on their property as wildlife habitat.  The field is located on the southeast corner of Hubbard Drive and the Southfield Freeway (M-39) Service drive. The goldfinch often mingled with House Finches (a flock of ~500).  It was last reported on 11 March 2003. Another was captured and banded in September 2010, and you can read more about it here.

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 apparently now becoming established breeding birds in parts of Illinois and Wisconsin. RRBO’s research is now focusing on breeding European Goldfinches, as well as reports of other European cage bird species in the western Great Lakes, upper Midwest, and Ontario. RRBO is asking for the public’s help in compiling these records (see below).

Submitting reports

I am doing research on certain species of European birds found in North America — but only certain species in certain regions.  Here is the information I am requesting (yes, still accumulating records as of  2014):

Information on nesting European Goldfinches in North America.

  • This could be An active nest, adults feeding young birds, or family groups (see links here for ID tips on young European Goldfinches).  Note this species nests in May and June, earlier than American Goldfinches.
  • Can be retroactive to the year 2002.
  • Please provide the date; the number of birds (adult and/or young); the state or province, the county or district (very important), and nearest city. Geographical coodinates would be great and much appreciated.

Any of the following European/Eurasian species: 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).

  • Can be retroactive to the year 2002.
  • In the following regions only: Wisconsin, Illinois, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan, northern Minnesota, and Ontario in the regions adjacent to the north shore of Lake Superior.
  • Please provide the species; date; the number of birds; the state or province, the county or district (very important), and nearest city. Geographical coodinates would be great and much appreciated.

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 great!

Reports of various single escaped cage birds, especially European Goldfinches, from anywhere in North America is common. 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: JCRAVES AT UMICH.EDU

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