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Lewis & Clark as Naturalists
The Collection: Species Details Lewis and Clark as Naturalists
Bird    Species Name:
Carduelis tristis

Common Name:
American Goldfinch


Marias River, Montana
On Marias River
  June 8, 1805

Nature's weed-controller

A high-contrast bird, the goldfinch may be seen from coast to coast during some part of the year.  In breeding season, the male wears a yellow cape topped with a black crown and framed by black wings.  Their striking colors and undulating flight make them easy to identify.  These birds are another example of Lewis and Clark noting an organism from the eastern United States that also exists west of the Mississippi river.  Coincidentally, the men collected one of the plants that the goldfinch relies upon for food, the edible thistle (Cirsium edule), which can also be viewed on this site under Plants.  The genus name for that thistle was once Carduus, from the Latin word for thistle.  The goldfinch's genus name, Carduelis, is a form of the same word, and reminds us that this little bird eats thistle seeds. The species name, tristis, means sad and refers to the bird's mournful call.

Journal Entries:

Capt. Lewis, June 8, 1805--we breakfasted and set out  about sunrise and continued our rout down rhte river bottoms through the mud ...  more>>

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American goldfinch head, male

See following caption
American goldfinch, male

See following caption
American goldfinch tail, male

See following caption
American Goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

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