Goldfinch – ringing & migration

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

We see goldfinches all year round in Pembrokeshire, so it is difficult to know if we are seeing the same ones all the time, or if the winter birds are different to the summer ones.


Studies in England suggest that some 80% of goldfinches may migrate, but the extent and direction of the migration seems to depend more on food supply and weather conditions than on the birds being hard-wired to a particular route or destination (BTO Migration Atlas 2002).

Spring migration is most noticeable on the offshore islands. Analysis of records from Bardsey and Skokholm bird observatories show a marked increase in the daily numbers of birds seen in between the last week of March and the middle of May.  But while numbers on Bardsey have exceeded 150 on several occasions, on Skokholm they are generally less than 20 apart from exceptional counts of 80 in April 2013 and 143 in April 2014.

Skokholm autumn counts are rather higher, though still usually less than 100 in a day. The highest count was 285 on 14th October 2013. However, 2018 was a record year overall with counts of 114 on 30 September, and 119 and 170 on 6 and 15 October respectively.

Flocks are also recorded moving along the coast, for example 150 near Fishguard on 3 May 2016, 100 at Castlemartin on 23 September 2017, and 120 over Rosebush on 18 October 2018.


The few birds ringed in Pembrokeshire and found elsewhere, or ringed elsewhere and found later in Pembrokeshire, are shown on the map above.  The bird ringed in Belgium was caught by a cat 3 years later near Narberth. The one that went to France was picked up dead a year after being ringed at Boncath.

For Wales as a whole, some 80 ringed goldfinches have been found across most parts of Britain, while a similar number ringed elsewhere have turned up in Wales. 

It is generally considered that Welsh birds migrate to Spain (the longest movement of a Welsh goldfinch was from Talybont-on-Usk to 180km south of Madrid), but the ringing data indicate there is also an interchange with Ireland.

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire