Living Bird Magazine
Cassin's FinchHaemorhous cassinii
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
Slightly less well known than its lookalikes (House Finch and Purple Finch), the Cassin’s Finch is the characteristic rosy-tinged finch of the mountains of western North America. Small flocks twitter and forage in the tall evergreen forests and in groves of quaking aspen. Along with range and habitat, a good way to sort them out is to learn the Cassin’s Finch’s peaked head shape and thick, straight-edged bill. Males sing a rollicking song that includes mimicked calls of other birds.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Head to mountain forests of evergreens and quaking aspen to look for Cassin’s Finches. Listen for their fast, rolling songs and be alert for flocks of small seed-eating birds—Cassin’s Finches often forage in the company of crossbills, grosbeaks, or other finches, or visit mineral deposits to eat salt.
- Camachuelo de Cassin (Spanish)
- Roselin de Cassin (French)
Cassin’s Finches may come to sunflower seed feeders, especially during winter. They also visit many kinds of fruiting shrubs, including cotoneaster, mulberries, firethorn, grape, and apple. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The Cassin’s Finch was first collected on an 1850s expedition to the southwestern mountains by the Pacific Railroad Survey. The eminent ornithologist John Cassin, who created illustrations for the survey, called the pink-tinged finch the “greatest bird in the lot.” Cassin asked his friend and colleague Spencer Baird to name the new species after him.
- Male Cassin’s Finches have red crown feathers thanks to carotenoid pigments, which they acquire when they swallow colorful foods like the orange berries of firethorn plants.
- Male Cassin's Finches remain brownish and look like females during their first breeding season. During this time they sing, and this may give the false impression that both sexes sing. These young males may group into “bachelor flocks” during that first breeding season.
- The Cassin's Finch is an accomplished mimic, often adding the calls of other species into its own songs.
- The Cassin's Finch breeds semicolonially, with nests on average 80 feet apart. Nests are sometimes as close as 3 feet apart—this usually causes a fight between males until one of the pair gives up. If the first nest is substantially earlier than the other, however, such close nesting may be tolerated.
- The Cassin's Finch craves salt, and is often found visiting mineral deposits on the ground.
- The oldest recorded Cassin’s Finch was a male, and at least seven years old when he was recaptured and released during banding operations in Oregon in 1979. He had been banded in the same state in 1974.