House Finches and Purple Finches: How to Tell the Difference

House finches and purple finches look very similar. Birding experts explain how backyard birders can identify these finches.

male house finchCourtesy Jim Gordon
Male house finch

“Is this new bird in my backyard a house finch or a purple finch,” asks Jim Gordon of Dassel, Minnesota.

Telling house and purple finches apart is a common backyard birding challenge across much of North America. On the males, one of the first things to look for is the pattern on the sides of the body, below the wings. House finch males have dark stripes there (as seen in the photo above), while purple finches don’t.

Psst—here’s how to choose the best nyjer feeders to attract finches.

purple finch at a tray feederCourtesy Rosemarie Pace
Purple finch on a tray feeder

A female house finch has a fairly plain brown face, while a female purple finch has a contrasting white eyebrow and whisker mark. House finches also have a smaller beak, a slimmer body, shorter wingtips, and a longer tail than the purple finch.

Next, learn how to tell the difference between downy and hairy woodpeckers.

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Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman
Kenn and Kimberly are the official Birds & Blooms bird experts. They are the duo behind the Kaufman Field Guide series. They speak and lead bird trips all over the world. When they're not traveling, they enjoy watching birds and other wildlife in their Northwest Ohio backyard.