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Pine Warbler vs Goldfinch

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pine warbler vs goldfinch

Birders are sometimes confused when identifying birds of different species that look similar. One of these birds is the pine warbler and the goldfinch. They both come in yellow color and are almost the same size.

So, this article will cover the difference between pine warbler vs goldfinch. These two commonly-mistaken birds can be identified by some of their physical features and other traits, which will be discussed in this article.

Features Pine Warblers Goldfinch
General Color Greenish Yellow Bright/Brilliant Yellow Color
Feathers Not Showy Showy
Eating Habit Eat Seeds and Insects in the Wild Eat Seeds in the Feeder
Beak Slender and Pointed Cone-Shaped


Physical Features

pine warbler vs goldfinch features
Pine warbler vs Goldfinch

Goldfinches are little finches with a short and cone-shaped beak. These birds also come with smaller heads, short tails, and longer wings. On the other hand, the pine warbler is considered a bulky and long-tailed warbler. These birds are also known for their strong bills while a central mark can be seen at the tip of their tail.

Both of these birds come with white wing bars but the goldfinch’s front edges and the tip of its feather are colored white. An adult male goldfinch comes in brilliant yellow which can be mistaken as gold.

On the other hand, adult male pine warblers usually come in bright yellow colors while their female counterparts come in dull color. Both of these birds come with white tail spots. But the difference is that the pine warbler’s spots come only in the two outermost tail feathers. The goldfinch, on the other hand, has spots in every tail feather.


With its name, pine warblers are expected to live in pine trees. The pine trees can be found in a forest or in deciduous woods where a pine tree is located. They will live in the same habitat during the winter season but sometimes visit bird feeders to hunt for food.

It is normal not to see pine warblers every time because they usually like to stay above the upper parts of the pine tree. But, they can also visit home if they see bird feeders containing food that they eat.

On the other hand, goldfinches like to live anywhere. They can be found on bushes, trees, and rough ground with thistles. They also enjoy staying in gardens, orchards, parks, and commons. These birds can also visit feeders in a flock.


difference between pine warbler vs goldfinch

You can also compare the physical features of goldfinch and pine warbler by getting the measurement of their length, wingspan, and weight. When you do this, you can get an idea of which is bigger, although there is not much difference between the two birds.

On average, a goldfinch is shorter in length at around 11 – 13 cm, while the pine warbler’s average length is 13 – 14 cm. Pine warbler is also slightly bigger in the average length of the wingspan at 19 – 23 cm. The goldfinch has an average of 19 – 22 cm.

The goldfinch is slightly heavier, averaging 11 – 20 grams, while the pine warbler has an average weight of 9 – 15 grams. To give you a clear idea, we have summarize the comparison in the table below:

Features Goldfinch Pine Warbler
Length 11 – 13 cm 13 – 14 cm
Wingspan 19 – 22 cm 19 – 23 cm
Weight 11 – 20 grams 9 – 15 grams

Food Preference

When it comes to food, these two birds are generally seed eaters but what is the difference is the type of food they eat. Goldfinches will only eat seeds almost exclusively. But, their preference are seeds coming from composite plants such as asters, thistle, and sunflowers.

So, if you put these seeds on the feeders, it is likely that they will come into your backyard. Backyard birders usually replace seeds in the feeder every three to four weeks to keep goldfinches returning to your yard.

On the other hand, the pine warbler is the only warbler that eats seeds. They like to eat cracked corn, millet, and sunflower seeds. These birds want to devour suit in their meals in the colder months.

However, the pine warblers are not exclusively eating seeds. They will also forage and eat fruits coming from bushes and vines. They will also eat bayberry, flowering dogwood, grape, sumac, and Virginia creeper.


You can also differentiate between the two birds with the way they migrate every year. Usually, the pine warblers in the northern part of the range will join the resident pine warblers based in the southern part of the United States.

So, those pine warblers based in the northern part of the United States and Canada will migrate to wintering grounds in the southern part of the United States. So, those pine warblers based in the southern part of the range will stay in their territory year-round.

On the other hand, the goldfinch is irregular in migration, with more birds remaining in the northern part of the range with an excellent food supply. Goldfinches are somewhat migratory but only within their range.

The goldfinch migration ranges from mid-Alberta to North Carolina during the breeding season. During winter, it is expected that the birds will migrate south of Canada to the United States border with Mexico.


Comparing pine warbler vs goldfinch is challenging to do, but they are not the same species which means there are still differences that you can spot between the two birds. This article shows the difference in their physical features, food, migration habits, and many more factors.

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