The Goldfinch (Carduelis elegans), Fig. 28, included in the family Fringillidae or Finch kind, and sub-family Fringillinae, is the most esteemed of the hard-billed British birds, for the colour of its plumage, the elegance of its form, and the harmony of its notes. The bill is white, tipped with black, and surrounded at the base with a ring of rich scarlet feathers. The head is covered with large spots of black and white, the back, rump and breast are of a pale, tawny brown. When the wings are folded they display a row of white spots, finely contrasting with the black ground on which they are placed, these are the tips of the wing-feathers, which terminate in white.

The Goldfinch on Thistle.

Fig. 28. - The Goldfinch on Thistle.

The goldfinch commences singing early in March and continues its song throughout the whole spring. It prefers orchards as a residence, and the nest is a beautiful structure, the outside being composed of moss, lichen and coarse grass, lined with hair, wool, and down from various plants. The female goldfinch lays five eggs of a whitish tint marked with spots of a deep purple colour at the larger end. The young are reared on small caterpillars and other insects of a soft nature. In autumn and winter goldfinches are gregarious and feed upon seeds of teazle, plantain, knapweed, groundsel, burdock, dandelion, and, above all, thistle (hence the name of thistlefinch) and grasses.