In some parts of England the trade in goldfinches is very considerable.
In these districts and others the number has become much reduced, owing doubtless in part to the fatal practice of catching the birds just before or during the breeding-season; but perhaps the strongest cause of their growing scarcity is the constant breaking-up of waste lands, and the extirpation of weeds (particularly of the order Compositae) essential to the improved system of agriculture; for in many parts of Scotland, East Lothian for instance, where goldfinches were once as plentiful as sparrows, they are now only rare stragglers, and yet there they have not been thinned by netting.
Though goldfinches may occasionally be observed in the coldest weather, incomparably the largest number leave Britain in autumn, returning in spring, and resorting to gardens and orchards to breed, when the lively song of the cock, and the bright yellow wings of both sexes, quickly attract notice.
The linnets, through the genus Leucosticte, lead to the mountain-finches (Montifringilla), and the redpolls through the siskins (Chrysomitris) to the goldfinches (Carduelis); and these last again to the hawfinches, one group of which (Coccothraustes) is apparently not far distant from the chaffinches (Fringilla proper), and the other (Hesperiphona) seems to be allied to the greenfinches (Ligurinus) .
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