It prefers trees in open places, especially in orchards and along roadsides. As winter approaches, the goldfinch moves short distances towards the south. Its winter range includes southern British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and most of the United States.
In spring the birds moult all but their black wing and tail feathers, and the bills of both sexes turn orange. The male assumes brilliant canary yellow plumage and a striking jet black cap; he has a very pleasing call song. In flight, a white rump contrasts with the black tail.
Their flight path is not straight horizontally; instead, they generally fly while going slightly up and down, making an ocean wave-shaped path. The American Goldfinch lays four to six bluish white eggs, roughly the size of peanuts.
Their favorite foods (at least in the U.S.) are thistle and teasel seeds. However, they also eat small seeds from other weeds, grasses and trees, tree buds, maple sap and sometimes insects. In winter, they are often seen in flocks.