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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: FRINGILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

House Finch Photo

The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across.

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Keys to identification Help

Finches
Finches
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    House Finches are small-bodied finches with fairly large beaks and somewhat long, flat heads. The wings are short, making the tail seem long by comparison. Many finches have distinctly notched tails, but the House Finch has a relatively shallow notch in its tail.

  • Color Pattern

    Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. In flight, the red rump is conspicuous. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face.

  • Behavior

    House Finches are gregarious birds that collect at feeders or perch high in nearby trees. When they’re not at feeders, they feed on the ground, on weed stalks, or in trees. They move fairly slowly and sit still as they shell seeds by crushing them with rapid bites. Flight is bouncy, like many finches.

  • Habitat

    House Finches frequent city parks, backyards, urban centers, farms, and forest edges across the continent. In the western U.S., you’ll also find House Finches in their native habitats of deserts, grassland, chaparral, and open woods.

Range Map Help

House Finch Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult male

    House Finch

    Adult male
    • Bright orangish red on forehead, throat, and breast
    • Brown back and wings
    • Thick brown streaking on flanks
    • Thick grayish bill
    • © Jeff Hurd
  • Adult female

    House Finch

    Adult female
    • Brown and streaked overall
    • Plain face
    • Thick grayish bill
    • © Bob Baker, Virginia, November 2007
  • Adult male

    House Finch

    Adult male
    • Brownish overall with red forehead, throat, and breast
    • Brown back and wings
    • Thick brown streaking on flanks
    • © Kevin Bolton, November 2008
  • Adult female

    House Finch

    Adult female
    • Brown back and wings
    • Breast and flanks with brown streaking
    • Plain face
    • © Maria Corcacas/PFW, January 2008
  • Adult male

    House Finch

    Adult male
    • Brown back and wings
    • Bright red rump
    • Moderate length tail, short wings
    • © ashockenberry, Ontario, Canada, September 2008
  • Adult male and female

    House Finch

    Adult male and female
    • Thick bills, faces with not much pattern
    • © Richard Lee, September 2008
  • Adult male

    House Finch

    Adult male
    • Orangish red eyebrow and throat
    • Grayish auriculars (ear patch)
    • © Raymond Belhumeur
  • Adult male yellow variant

    House Finch

    Adult male yellow variant
    • Some males may be orange or yellow instead of red
    • © Seth Reams, Portland, Oregon, March 2008

Similar Species

  • Adult male

    Cassin's Finch

    Adult male
    • Similar to male House Finch
    • Red on face is more intense and extends farther towards nape
    • Less streaking on sides (finer on flanks)
    • Longer, more pointed bill than House Finch
    • © Chris Wood, December 2004
  • Adult female

    Cassin's Finch

    Adult female
    • Similar to female House Finch
    • More pattern on face
    • Dark streaking on breast has more contrast
    • Long wings
    • Thick, straight bill
    • © Keefee, New Mexico, May 2008
  • Adult male

    Red Crossbill

    Adult male
    • Similar to male House Finch
    • Red overall, with dark, mostly unmarked wings
    • Large, crossed bill
    • © Jane Ogilvie, May 2003
  • Adult male

    Pine Grosbeak

    Adult male
    • Similar to male House Finch
    • Much larger
    • Gray sides, no streaking on flanks
    • Bright white wingbars
    • © Brenda Hudec, November 2006
  • Adult

    Pine Siskin

    Adult
    • Similar to female House Finch
    • More streaked overall (streaks darker and more defined)
    • Whitish wing-bars
    • Often shows yellow on wings (may be dull in some)
    • Thinner, sharper bill
    • © Robert J. Baker, Virginia, December 2008
  • Adult male

    Purple Finch

    Adult male
    • Similar to male House Finch
    • Red color includes head and nape and extends to sides and back
    • No dark streaking on flanks
    • Long wings
    • © Heather of the Hills, Ohio, January 2008
  • Adult female

    Purple Finch

    Adult female
    • Similar to female House Finch
    • Bolder face pattern
    • Dark streaking on breast has more contrast
    • © Heather of the Hills, Ohio

Similar Species

House Finches have blurry grayish streaking on the belly and flanks, unlike either Cassin's Finch or Purple Finches. Female House Finches have a plainer brown head, where female Purple Finches are more strikingly brown and white. Female House Sparrows have light-brown stripes on the back and are unstreaked on the chest and belly. Bill shape is distinctive for House Finches: it's fairly blunt, and rounded, without a sharp tip. Purple and Cassin's finches both have longer, less rounded bills. Pine Siskins are even more streaky than female House Finches, with yellow patches in the wings and a thinner, more pointed bill. Female House Sparrows are warmer brown above and don't have streaked underparts.

Regional Differences

House Finches, particularly males, can look very different from one to another. This is largely due to differences in their diet rather than regional differences. Even though all of eastern North America’s House Finches are descended from the same few birds released on Long Island (meaning they’re much more closely related to each other than they are to birds across the West), there aren’t any strong differences in size, shape, or color between the two regions.

Backyard Tips

Fill your backyard feeders with small, black oil sunflower seed. If House Finches discover your feeders, they might bring flocks of 50 or more birds with them.

Find This Bird

You can find House Finches by looking around settled habitats, such as city parks, urban centers, residential backyards, farms, and forest edges. Gregarious and social, House Finches are found in noisy groups that are hard to miss if present. Look for House Finches feeding on the ground or at bird feeders, or perching high in nearby trees.

Get Involved

House Finches are a focal bird species for the Celebrate Urban Birds! project. Conduct a 10-minute count and record whether or not you see finches.

House Finches often nest near homes and buildings, sometimes even on Christmas wreaths left hanging after the holidays, or on nesting platforms built for them. Report nesting activities to NestWatch.

You Might Also Like

Learn the basics about House Finch Eye Disease, and what we’re doing to understand it.

More background in a 1999 Birdscope article, "Population Dynamics of the House Finch"

If You Build It, They Might Come: Tips for enticing House Finches to nest

Tricky Bird IDs: House Finch, Purple Finch, and Cassin's Finch

Epidemic in the Northwest: Ten years after House Finch eye disease was discovered in the east, an epidemic breaks out on the opposite side of the continent

Why Did House Sparrow Numbers Rise, then Fall? Citizen-science data point to competition with House Finches

Where Finches Sleep