The 20 Types of Finches Found in the United States! (2021)

What kinds of finches can you find in the United States?

finch intro pics

 

Finches are incredibly beautiful birds and a lot of fun to see in your backyard.  

 

Luckily, almost all of them visit bird feeders, so you have a good chance of attracting multiple types of finches to your yard. If you’re lucky, you may even see a finch at my bird feeding station right now! I have a LIVE high-definition camera watching my bird feeders 24/7. 🙂

 

Did you know 20 types of finches live in the United States?

 

Below you will learn more about each species AND how to identify them by sight OR sound. Make sure to pay attention to the range maps to see which finches live near you!

  • The range maps below were generously shared with permission from Birds of the World, published by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I use their site OFTEN to learn new information about birds!

 

To learn more about birds that live near you, check out these other guides!

 


#1. American Goldfinch

  • Spinus tristis

american goldfinch

Identifying Characteristics:

  • In summer, males are a vivid yellow with a black cap and black wings. Females are a duller yellow without a black cap.
  • In winter, both sexes look the same and turn a pale brown/olive color. They’re identified by their black wings and white wing bar.

 

 These small and colorful finches are relatively common in the United States. 

 

And luckily, American Goldfinches are relatively easy to attract to bird feeders! Try offering their favorite foods, sunflower kernels and Nyjer seed, which many other birds don’t eat.

 

It’s also helpful to include bird feeders specially designed for goldfinches. These small birds are easily scared off by larger “bullies.” They’ll appreciate having places that only they can use! I like the fact they can feed in any position, even upside down.

American Goldfinch Range Map

american goldfinch range map

American Goldfinches are strict vegetarians. Their diet is exclusively made of seeds with no insects, which is rare in the bird world. Naturally, they feast on seeds from asters, thistles, sunflowers, grasses, and many types of trees.  

 

Because of their diet, American Goldfinches breed later than other birds. They wait until June or July, when most plants are in full seed production, ensuring there’s enough food for them to feed their babies.

 

To identify them by sound, listen for a pretty series of musical trills and warbles.


#2. House Finch

  • Haemorhous mexicanus

song sparrow

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Adult males are rosy red around their heads and upper breasts. They have brown streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
  • Females are brown with streaks on their back, tail, and belly.
  • Both sexes have notched tails, and conical beaks designed to eat seeds.

 

It’s common to see House Finches in the United States near people.

 

Look for them around buildings, backyards, parks, and other urban and suburban areas.  

House Finch Range Map

house finch range map

In fact, House Finches are often the first birds to discover new bird feeders. These birds are intensely curious and rarely travel alone, so their arrival often helps other birds find your feeders too! I see them eating sunflower seed, Nyjer seed, and safflower in my yard.

 

House Finches have an enjoyable song, which can be heard year-round. Listen below to a series of jumbled, warbled notes.

 

 


#3. Pine Siskin

  • Spinus pinus

pine siskin - finch species

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes are small, brown, and streaked with fine yellow edging on their wings and tails.
  • Sharply pointed bill and a short, forked tail and long pointed wingtips.
  • The only finch in the United States where males and females look the same.

 

Pine Siskins are social and search for food in flocks while chirping nonstop to each other. They don’t even stop chattering when flying!

Pine Siskin Range Map

pine siskin range key

Pine Siskins feed at backyard feeders generally in the winter. They prefer to eat smaller seeds without tough shells, such as sunflower or Nyjer seeds.

 

Pine Siskins are typically found in mixed evergreen or deciduous forests, but they will move to a new place in search of food, like weedy fields, backyards, or gardens.

 

Listen below to Pine Siskin’s song, a twittering warble that rises and falls in pitch. They randomly throw in a “ZZZzzzzzreeee” that rises in pitch ever so often. You will notice they sound more wheezy than other finches in the United States. 

 


#4. Evening Grosbeak

  • Coccothraustes vespertinus

Evening Grosbeak male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes have a large, thick, conical beak and are the size of an American Robin.
  • Males are yellow and black with a prominent white patch in the wings and a bright yellow stripe over the eye.
  • Females are mostly gray with white and black wings and a greenish-yellow tinge on their neck and sides.

 

Evening Grosbeaks are one of the largest finches in the United States.

 

Typically, they are found in the northern coniferous forests, and in winter, they can be found pretty much anywhere as they search for food. 

 

Evening Grosbeaks are known for their large and strong bill. They use these bills to crack open large seeds that other birds are unable to open.

Evening Grosbeak Range Map

evening grosbeak range map

In fact, these finches will show up at feeders far south of their normal winter range, which provides a treat for backyard birders. You can attract them with sunflower seeds placed onto a large platform feeder, which gives these birds ample room to land and eat.

 

Evening Grosbeaks are one of the few finches in the United States without a song. But they do have some simple calls, including sweet, piercing notes and burry chirps, which you can hear below!

 


#5. Red Crossbill

  • Loxia curvirostra

Red crossbill male and female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Sparrow-sized. Look for their distinctive crisscrossed bills (which means the upper and lower tips of their beak don’t align; they cross, like crossing your fingers)
  • Males are red overall with darker brownish-red wings and white wing bars.
  • Females are full-bodied and yellowish with dark unmarked wings.

 

As their name suggests, Red Crossbills have crisscrossed bills, similar to if you cross your fingers. They adapted these oddly shaped bills to help them break into tightly closed cones, giving them an advantage over other finch species in the United States.

 

They’re found in large coniferous forests during their breeding season, especially spruce, pine, Douglas-fir, hemlock, or larch with recent cone crops. But in winter, they wander wherever they need to go to find food. While not incredibly common, they will sometimes visit bird feeders and eat sunflower seeds.

Red Crossbill Range Map

Red Crossbills are highly dependent on conifer seeds. In fact, they even feed them to their babies instead of insects like most other songbirds. These finches typically breed in late summer but can actually breed any time during the year if a large enough cone crop is available.

 

Males sing a variably sweet warble, which sounds like “chipa-chipa-chipa, chee-chee-chee. Females rarely sing, but they have call notes that are sharp and metallic.

 


#6. Purple Finch

  • Haemorhous purpureus

purple finch male and female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Small, with a conical seed-eating bill.
  • Males have a raspberry red head, breast, and back.
  • Females have prominent streaks of white and brown below, with strong facial markings, including a whitish eyebrow and a dark line down the side of the throat.

 

Male Purple Finches are beautiful and described as looking like they were dipped in raspberry juice. 

 

Purple Finches use their big beaks and tongues to crush seeds and extract the nut. This is good news because they’ll also visit bird feeders! Your best chance to attract them is using black-oil sunflower seeds. Having conifer trees in your yard is also a great way to encourage these finches to visit.

Purple Finch Range Map

purple finch range map

 

Purple Finches can be challenging to identify because they look incredibly similar to the more common House Finch. I’ve made this mistake many times, believing that I saw a Purple Finch when it was, in fact, just another House Finch. To tell them apart, look at their back. The Purple Finch’s back has red coloring, while the back of a House Finch has none.

 

Similar to other finches in the United States, males sing a rich, musical warble. Listen below!

 


#7. Rose-breasted Grosbeak

  • Pheucticus ludovicianus

Red-breasted Grosbeak male and female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Stocky birds with a large, trianglar bill. About the size of an American Robin.
  • Males have black backs and wings, with a distinctive red mark on their white breast.
  • Females are heavily streaked with a white eyebrow and a pale bill.

 

It’s easy to see how these beautiful finches got their name. One look at the males, and you’ll immediately notice the bright red plumage topping their white breasts. On the other hand, females can be hard to identify, as they look similar to many other birds.

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks like to visit bird feeders, where it uses its huge triangular bill to crack open seeds. I’ve never seen one of these finches use a tube feeder; I don’t think the perches provide enough space for them. If you want to attract them, the best food to use is sunflower seeds set out on a platform feeder.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Range Map

Rose-breasted Grosbeak males sing to establish territories and attract females. When the female shows up, the male sometimes plays hard-to-get, rejecting her for a day or two before finally accepting her as a mate! To make up for this, they give the female a break and sit on the nest to keep the eggs warm. 

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are known for their beautiful song. It sounds similar to an American Robin but better! Listen for a long series of notes that rise and fall. If you hear one, make sure to look for the male singing from an elevated perch.

 


#8. Blue Grosbeak

  • Passerina caerulea

Blue grosbeak male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Stocky finch with a huge, triangular bill.
  • Males are deep, rich blue with a tiny black mask in front of the eyes, chestnut wing bars, and a black and silver beak.
  • Females are primarily cinnamon-brown. The color is richer on the head, paler on the underparts; their tails are bluish.

 

Blue Grosbeaks like seeds and grains at bird feeders in shrubby backyards because they feel more protected. You’ll typically hear them singing before you see them.

Blue Grosbeaks Range Map

Blue Grosbeaks are very shy, especially around humans, which makes them very difficult to observe. Interestingly, both males and females have a weird habit of twitching their tails sideways, although the reason for this behavior is unknown.

 

Blue Grosbeaks have also been known to “sidle,” where they walk sideways along branches, as seen in parrots.

 

Listen below as the male Blue Grosbeak sings a musical warble that lasts for 2 or 3 seconds. 

 


#9. Black-headed Grosbeak

  • Pheucticus melanocephalus

Black-headed Grosbeak male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes have large heads, thick beaks, short and thick necks, and a short tail that gives them a compact, chunky look.
  • Males are an orange-cinnamon color with a black head and black and white wings.
  • Females and immature males have grayish bills and flash bright yellow under the wings when flying.

 

Black-headed Grosbeaks like to hide in thick foliage and are known to hop around while searching for food. Their giant beaks are perfectly adapted for cracking seeds, but they also use them to crush hard-bodied invertebrates like snails!

Black-headed Grosbeak Range Map

black-headed grosbeak range map

Like other finches in the United States, you can attract Black-headed Grosbeaks by providing sunflower seeds. But interestingly, this species has a sweet tooth and is also known to visit nectar feeders! They will nest in your backyard and garden if there’s enough cover and water nearby.

 

Both male and female Black-headed Grosbeaks sing. The female song is not as long and not as loud, and she sings less than the male. The males sing a rich song with high-pitched notes from treetops. Listen below:

 


#10. Common Redpoll

  • Acanthis flammea

Common Redpoll male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Both sexes are small, white, and brown. Look for streaks on their sides and a small red patch on their forehead. 
  • Males have a pale red vest on the chest and upper flanks.

 

Redpolls visit backyard bird feeders, especially during the winter. Due to their small bill size, they prefer eating small seeds like Nyjer (thistle) and shelled sunflower when visiting feeders.

Common Redpoll Range Map

common redpoll range map

Like many finches in the United States, Common Redpolls have a rollercoaster-like flying style.

 

Redpolls travel in flocks of up to several hundred birds. They move very fast, gathering seeds in weedy fields or small trees one minute and swirling away in a mass of chattering birds the next.

 

Listen below to the Redpoll song, a combination of single or repeated calls (“chit-chit-chit-chit”). Their call notes are a whistle that sounds like “swee-ee-eet.”

 

These finches travel great distances and can turn up almost anywhere! For example, one bird banded in Michigan showed up in Siberia. Another one in Belgium was found again in China!

 


#11. Cassin’s Finch

  • Haemorhous cassinii

Cassin's Finch male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Small finches with short-medium tails, streaked feathers, and thick bills. 
  • Males are rosy pink all over with more red on top of their heads.
  • Females and young Cassin’s Finches are brown and white birds with dark streaks on the chest and underparts.

 

Male Cassin’s get the red on the top of their head from eating colorful foods like the orange berries of firethorn plants.

 

Cassin’s Finch Range Map

cassins finch range map

Cassin’s Finches visit feeders in the winter that provide sunflower seeds. They also like shrubs with fruit such as mulberry, firethorn, or grape bushes. Interestingly, they crave salt and are often found visiting deposits of minerals on the ground.

 

Their songs tend to imitate other birds, and both males and females sing. Listen below as a male Cassin’s Finch sings a joyful song with a quick series of short sounds.

 


#12. White-winged Crossbill

  • Loxia leucoptera

White-winged Crossbill male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Crisscrossed bill used to separate pine cone scales to access the seeds.
  • Males are rose-pink with black wings and tails. Look for two white lines of contrasting color across the middle of the wing.
  • Females and young males are yellowish but with the same wing and tail pattern as the adult males.

 

White-winged Crossbills get their name from the shape of their bill! These finches evolved these unique beaks to open up pine cones so that they can eat the seeds inside. 

 

Individual White-winged Crossbills can eat up to 3,000 conifer seeds each day.

 

In fact, some people can locate crossbills by hearing them crunching while opening cones in the trees.

 

White-winged Crossbill Range Map

white-winged crossbill range map

 

You can sometimes attract these finches to backyard feeders in the United States by offering hulled sunflower seeds.

 

Both sexes sing a mixture of vigorous and scattered chirps, warbles, and rattles. Listen below!


#13. Pine Grosbeak

  • Pinicola enucleator

Pine Grosbeak male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Large, plump finches. Look for dark gray wings with two white lines across the middle.
  • Males are reddish-pink and gray.
  • Females and young males are grayish with tints of reddish-orange or yellow on the head and rump.

 

Pine Grosbeaks are one of the largest finches in the United States!

 

If one lands on your feeders, they are typically easy to identify since they’re bigger than most other birds.

 

Pine Grosbeaks frequently visit feeders, especially during the winter. If you want to attract them, try using a hopper or platform feeder because of the bird’s larger size. Fill the feeders with sunflower seeds.

 

Pine Grossbeak Range Map

pine grosbeak range map

Pine Grosbeaks are relatively easy to find and see due to their slow-moving (some people call sluggish) behavior. In addition, they’re relatively tame and don’t scare easily.

 

Male Pine Grosbeaks sing a high-pitched warble that goes up and down. Listen below! Females don’t sing very often.

 


#14. Hoary Redpoll

  • Acanthis hornemanni

Hoary Redpoll male and female

  Identifying Characteristics:

  • Tiny, pale white birds with gray-brown streaks, dark-gray tails, and wings, with bold white wing bars. Look for small red patches on the forehead.
  • Feathers are fluffy, making them look heavier.
  • Males have a reddish-pink chest.
  • Females lack the reddish-pink chest.

 

The Hoary Redpoll breeds in the arctic tundra and can live and survive in freezing winter weather. Most people never see these finches because not much civilization exists in the places they live. They get their name from the way they look: “hoary” is for the frosty plumage, and “redpoll” refers to the red patch on their head. 

Hoary Redpoll Range Map

hoary redpoll range map

These finches are rare visitors to bird feeders in the United States since they spend summers up north. However, Hoary Redpolls come south when the weather turns cold and food availability is scarce. If you’re extremely lucky, you may spot one visiting your yard eating Nyjer seeds or black-oil sunflower seeds. 

 

Redpolls can store seeds in pouches in their throat, kind of like a chipmunk stashing seeds in their cheeks. This lets them quickly collect seeds, then regurgitate them for husking and eating when they’re back in a sheltered and safe spot.

 

Male Hoary Redpoll songs are a trill that often lacks pauses,  sometimes followed by a slow twitter.

 


#15. Lesser Goldfinch

  • Spinus psaltria

Lesser Goldfinch male and female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are bright yellow below with a glossy black cap and white patches in the wings; black tail and backs can be glossy black or sometimes dull green.
  • Females and young males have olive backs, dull yellow underparts, and black wings marked by two whitish bars on the wings.

 

The Lesser Goldfinch is one of the smallest finches in the United States.

 

Look for these birds gathered in large groups, that can number up to several hundred individuals. When flying, they have the same roller coaster style flight as the American Goldfinch.

Lesser Goldfinch Range Map

lesser goldfinch range map

Lesser Goldfinches are often found in the suburbs, where they are common visitors to feeders. These small finches eat sunflower seeds, along with the thin-hulled seeds of Nyjer/thistle.

 

The male’s song is a rapid medley of twittering notes, lasting up to 10 seconds.

 


#16. Lawrence’s Goldfinch

  • Spinus lawrencei

Lawerence's goldfinch male-female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Small finches.
  • Males are primarily gray with yellow on the breast, upper belly, wings, and back. Their chin, face, and crown of the head are black.
  • Females are similar but have brown above, with no black in the face and less yellow in the plumage.

 

Lawrence’s Goldfinches are one of the most beautiful finches in the United States.

 

Interestingly, these birds are highly nomadic because they live in extremely arid areas. They move around constantly looking for places that provide food and water.

 

Lawrence’s Goldfinch Range Map

lawrences goldfinch range map

 

Lawrence’s Goldfinches don’t get their yellow breeding feathers through molting (like most birds). Instead, the feathers become yellower as they wear, shedding their brownish color and exposing yellow parts of the feather beneath. No other goldfinches acquire breeding plumage in this manner.

 

Lawrence’s Goldfinches are sometimes attracted to feeders. Your best bet is to fill them with Nyjer or shelled sunflower seeds.

 

Listen below as the male Lawrence’s Goldfinch sings several high-pitched notes mixed with some of their call notes. Typically they are more musical than other finches and often imitate other birds.

 


#17. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch

  • Leucosticte tephrocotis

gray crowned rosyfinch male female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Males are a rich brown. Look for pink plumage on the body, a gray head, and a black forecrown, throat, and bill.
  • Females are similar but with fewer amounts of pink, and their bill is yellow.

 

These finches are found at high elevations in the United States!

 

Look for them high on mountains or cliffs where they forage among loose stones, glaciers, meadows, and even avalanche areas. They even nest on the slopes of Mt. McKinley, which is the highest peak in North America.

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Range Map

gray crowned rosy finch range map

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches may visit backyard bird feeders in the winter when they come down a bit from the mountains. They like to eat black oil sunflower seeds scattered on the ground or in platform feeders.

 

Listen below to the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch chattering cheep cheep song.


#18. Black Rosy-Finch

  • Leucosticte atrata

black rosy finch male female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Medium-sized and chunky finches, with a conical bill and a notched tail.
  • Males are brownish and have some pink highlights and a yellow bill.
  • Females are blackish overall with pink highlights on the wings and lower belly and a gray crown. They have a black bill.

 

Black Rosy-Finches are incredibly unique birds. To find them in summer, you’ll need to head above the tree line. They nest on the sides of cliffs and other mountainous areas where few people ever travel.

 

Black Rosy-Finch Range Map

black rosy finch range map

In winter, they come down from the mountains a bit to escape the cold. They form large flocks and roost together in caves, mineshafts, and inside barns.

 

Black Rosy-Finches will even visit bird feeders in the United States during winter! To attract them, try offering sunflower and Nyjer seeds on platform feeders or scattering them on the ground.

 

Black Rosy-Finches do not have a song, but they give low cheep note calls.

 


#19. Brown-capped Rosy-Finch

  • Leucosticte australis

Brown-capped Rosy-finch

Identifying Characteristics:  

  • Medium-sized, with cinnamon-brown on their back, breast, neck, face, and black forehead. Red or pink on their belly, rump, and wings.
  • Males are more stocky, with a conical bill and a grayish crown and brown cheeks.
  • Females differ slightly; they have a black bill during the breeding season and a yellow bill during the nonbreeding season.

 

Look for Brown-capped Rosy-Finches in the high mountains, most often above the tree line. They breed wherever they can find a proper nesting site. Potential locations include the sides of cliffs, inside caves, under large rocks, or even on the rafters of old buildings!

Brown-capped Rosy-Finch Range Map

brown-capped rosy-finch range map

This species has the smallest range of the three species of Rosy-Finches in the United States.

 

If you want to attract Brown-capped Rosy-Finches, you’ll want to use tube feeders or hopper feeders. They prefer to eat sunflower seeds and Nyjer seeds. Your best chance to see one is during winter when they come down from the mountains.

 

Brown-capped Rosy-Finches do not have a song, but their call sounds like a buzzy chirp. Listen below.


#20. Cassia Crossbill

  • Loxia sinesciuris

cassins finch male female

Identifying Characteristics:

  • Small but stocky with a notched tail. It’s crisscrossed bill is thicker than other crossbills.
  • Males have grayish-brown bodies that are dashed with fiery reds and orangish hues.
  • Females are grayish-green overall with a tad of yellow on the belly.

 

Cassia Crossbills are unique as they are ONLY found in a small part of Idaho.

 

Unlike other crossbill species, they don’t migrate, choosing to stay put all year round in the same spot. Their geographic isolation and small population make them vulnerable to extinction.

Cassia Range Map

cassia crossbill range map

 

Cassia Crossbills are closely related to the much more widespread Red Crossbill. In fact, these birds used to be considered the same species until it was realized the Cassia’s don’t interbreed, have thicker bills, and don’t leave Cassia County, Idaho.

 

Cassia Crossbills sing like other crossbills, but their songs are longer and have lower-pitched notes.  


Which of these finches have you seen before in the United States?

 

Leave a comment below!

 

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