How to Identify a Finch Bird

How to Identify a Finch Bird
The finch is part of the largest family of highly adapted, developed birds, Fringillidae. There are many diverse types of finches with habitats across the globe; however, true finches have several things in common. When identifying a finch bird, it is important to examine its habitat, coloring, size, bill, diet and song.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Regional bird identification guide (optional)
  • Camera (optional)
  • Drawing supplies (optional)
  • Bird feeder (optional)
Step 1
Evaluate the habitat. House finches can thrive in diverse environments, including urban backyards, grasslands, farms, cities and open forests. American goldfinches gather in orchards, fields and flood plains. The purple finch resides in dense, deciduous and coniferous forests. The Cassin's Finch can be found in the mountains of the American West.
Step 2
Study the bird's unique coloring. Finches can have both brightly hued and muted plumes, depending on the species and gender. Finch birds can have brown, gray, red and yellow-colored bodies. Some finches have white stripes near their eyes (like the female purple finch) and black-striped wings (such as the male American goldfinch). Attempt to take a photograph to compare with a regional bird identification guide.
Step 3
Analyze the overall size and shape of the bird. Most finch species are small-bodied birds. Their short wings draw emphasis to their long tails. Additionally, many finches will have notched feathers on their tails.
Step 4
Observe the bird's bill. Most finches have a stubby, cone-shaped bill (like the house finch and pine grosbeak). However, some types, such as Cassin's Finch, have a long, pointed bill.
Step 5
Determine what the bird eats. The finch species feeds mainly on a diet of seeds (and the occasional insect). Finches are often spotted at bird feeders.
Step 6
Listen to the bird's call. Finches sing in a variety of ways. A pine grosbeak calls in distinct notes, while the hoary redpoll's call is a series of chittering sounds interspersed with rising, questioning notes. House finches are known to warble, and a goldfinch will sing in a combination of long, clear sounds and twitters. Evaluate the sequencing of the bird's song and compare your memory with online finch song guides (see References).

Tips & Warnings

Draw a sketch or take a photo of the bird, if possible, and compare with a regional identification guide.
Some finches are kept as pets, including the zebra, parrot, munia, waxbill and grass species.
Place a bird feeder in your backyard to attract finches.

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