This American goldfinch ranges from the southwestern United States (near the coast, as far north as extreme southwestern Washington) to Venezuela and Peru. It migrates from the colder parts of its U.S. range.
The Lesser Goldfinch often occurs in flocks or at least loose associations. It utilizes almost any habitat with trees or shrubs except for dense forest, and is common and conspicuous in many areas, often coming near houses. It is common at feeders in the Southwest United States and will come almost anywhere with thistle sock feeders. Flocks of at least six birds will often be seen at feeders. It feeds mostly on tree buds and weed seeds; geophagy has been observed in this species.
The nesting season is in summer in the temperate parts of its range; in the tropics it apparently breeds all-year round, perhaps less often in September/October. It lays three or four bluish white eggs in a cup nest made of fine plant materials such as lichens, rootlets, and strips of bark, placed in a bush or at low or middle levels in a tree.
The moult occurs in two different patterns which coincides with the blackness of the upperparts quite well. Here too is a broad zone of intergradation. Pacific birds moult after breeding, and females shed a few body feathers before breeding too. Juvenile males shed more remiges than females when moulting into adult plumage. East of the 106th meridian west, birds moult strongly before breeding and replace another quantity of feathers afterwards, and postjuvenal moult does not differ significantly between the sexes. However, this seems dependent on the differing rainfall regimes; simply put, birds at least anywhere in the North American range moult most of their plumage at the end of the dry season and may replace more feathers at the end of the wet season.
Considered a Species of Least Concern by the IUCN due to its vast range, it nonetheless seems to be declining locally. For example, it is rare in the Ecuadorean Andes foothills.