Can you tell a House Finch from a Purple Finch or Cassin’s Finch? These finches are some of our favorite common feeder visitors, but they can make for very tricky IDs! Adult males of all three species sport red plumage in varying shades and intensity, while females and immature males are similarly brown and streaky. But even though these birds look very similar, there are a few visual keys to ID. Check out our quick review below, or explore all the details with a full explanation from Project FeederWatch.
|Finch Species||Male Finches||Female and Immature Finches|
|House Finch||Rounded head|
Red concentrated on head and breast only
Bold brown streaking on the flanks
|Uniformly brown head—no facial pattern|
Long, thin, blurry streaks on breast
|Purple Finch||Larger head in proportion to body|
Pink wash on the wings and belly, as if dipped in raspberry juice
No distinct streaks on belly or flanks
|White eyebrow stripe|
Dark stripe trailing away from the beak
Short, thick, smudged streaks on breast
|Cassin’s Finch||Raspberry crown stands out more than red at brows|
Crown often peaks or sticks up
Minimal streaking on the flanks
|Less-defined white eyebrow stripe|
Sharply defined streaks on breast
Have you got all of that? Put these cues to the test with Bird Academy’s SnapID tool and practice distinguishing among all three finch species. You can replay the quiz as many times as you want. Each time you hit “Play Again,” you’ll have new photo matchups to practice on. Just click “Start SnapID Challenge” to get started!
Test Your Finch ID Skills
Interested in learning even more about backyard birds? Dive in to the details with Feeder Birds: Identification and Behavior and get to know 60+ feeder-visiting bird species in the U.S. and Canada. You can also download and print a free poster from Project FeederWatch highlighting common feeder birds with beautiful artwork by Larry McQueen.