House Finch vs Purple Finch: How to Tell the Difference
It can be tricky to tell a house finch vs purple finch — here are the field marks and differences to look for when you see a small red finch.
Determining whether your backyard visitor was a house finch vs purple finch can often be tricky — after all, the two species look incredibly alike! Thankfully, our experts know just how to distinguish between them. Here’s what you should look out for when you see a small red finch in your backyard.
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Examples: House Finch or Purple Finch?
“Is this new bird in my backyard a house finch or a purple finch,” asks Jim Gordon of Dassel, Minnesota.
Telling a house finch vs a purple finch 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 male purple finches don’t (see photo below).
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House finches also have a smaller beak, a slimmer body, shorter wingtips, and a longer tail than the purple finch.
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Female House Finch and Purple Finch
A female house finch has a fairly plain brown face, while a female purple finch has a contrasting white eyebrow and whisker mark.
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“Is this a house finch or a purple ﬁnch?” Lynette Lozinski of St. Cloud, Minnesota asks.
Little red finches can be tricky. Purple finches and house finches are similar in appearance, as males of both have a lot of red on the head. This is a house finch. In your photo (above), the bird is perched at an angle, making it hard to discern the slimmer body, longer tail and slightly smaller bill of the house finch.
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But a good field mark here is the brown streaking along the sides and under the wings, which would be faint or lacking on a purple finch.
Clear on telling a house finch vs purple finch? Learn how to tell the difference between downy vs hairy woodpeckers.