SIB “Bird of the Week” – House Finch vs. Purple Finch

House Finch
Carpodacus mexicanus
Length:  6″
Wingspan: 9.5″
Weight: 0.74 oz.

Purple Finch
Haemorhous purpureus
Length:  6″
Wingspan: 10″
Weight: 0.88 oz.

Surprisingly, the House Finch was originally confined to the west and known as a Linnet until being introduced as a caged bird in several pet stores in Long Island in the 1940s. Currently it is one of the most common birds in North America surpassing even the House Sparrow. Although originally indigenous to the deserts and plains of the west, they are now equally happy perched on your bird feeders or the railings on your back deck. The male has a brown cap and a bright red to orange under the beak and on the front of the head. The female is predominantly grayish brown with 2 narrow whitish buff bars on her wings. In the winter, the birds assume a more worn look with a strong muting of their distinctive colors.

The song of the male is longer than the female and has a varied high-pitched scratchy warble composed of chiefly three-note phrases, many ending with rising inflections.

House Finch love sunflower seeds, millet and thistle.

Similar to the House Finch is the Purple Finch. They belong to the same family Fringillidae but the species name is  Haemorhous purpureus. They are about the same size as the House Finch but are migratory and can be found in our area only in the winters at our bird feeders. They are chunkier than the House Finch and are (like their name) predominantly purple. The females on the other hand are more brownish gray than the female House Finch and have a whitish eye line.

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” Aija Konrad says that the Purple Finch looks like it “fell into a glass of red wine”.  Which description do you relate to best?

The Purple Finch song sounds like this.

Click on the images below to learn more about the visual differences between these two species of finch and read all about them in the article on Audubon’s website.



To learn more about each of these birds, visit the sites below:

Article submitted by:  Ron Schildge
Photographs provided by:  Ed Konrad & Audubon

This blog post is part of a series SIB will publish on a regular basis to feature birds seen in the area, both migratory and permanent residents.  When possible we will use photographs taken by our members.    Please let us know if you have any special requests of birds you would like to learn more about.

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