What Does a House Finch Look Like? – Identification Guide


Written by

Clinton Atkins



George Dukes

what does a house finch look like

What does a house finch look like? It depends if you are looking at a male or female one! House finches are sexually dimorphic, meaning that males and females of the species look different.

Adult female house finches are plain brown with dark streaks down their back until their tails. Adult males share the same coloration but have red, orange, or yellow feathers covering their faces and breasts.

House Finch Identification


With over 177 members in the Finch family, it can get tricky to identify one from the other. How can you tell if the bird in your yard is specifically a house finch? Here are some things to look out for.

1.  Size


House finches are small birds, about the same size as sparrows or even smaller.

From the tip of the bill until the end of their tail, they are usually between 5 to 5.5 inches long (13-14cm). Fully extended, they have a wingspan between 8-10 inches long (20-25cm) and weigh around 20g.

They are one of the smaller birds in the finch family, especially compared to the Purple finch and Cassin’s Finch.

2. Shape


Both male and female finches have conical beaks that can be large relative to their body size. Their heads are also distinctly flat on top yet rounded at the back.

Additionally, their tails are longer than other finch species but less deeply notched.

3. Color


What color are finches? It depends on the bird’s gender and diet!

A female house finch and a male juvenile house finch look the same – they have brown feathers that tend to darken to black towards their tail. They have blurry streaks down their bellies. Their wing feathers also tend to be bordered by thin white margins.

If you see a bird with red head and brown body, that is an adult male house finch.

However, a finch’s exact color depends on its diet. Adult males can appear in varying shades of yellow, orange, or red, depending on how much carotenoids (yellow, orange, or red pigments found in plants) they consume!

4. Habitat


The common brown finch can be found all over the US all year round. From city parks to urban centers and forests, from deserts to grasslands, you’ll easily spot a house finch, small grey bird, almost anywhere!

House finches are also a non-migratory species and don’t wander far from home often.

5. Diet


House finches spend most of their time eating, a habit that developed because of the uncertain supply of food in the wild. They instinctively eat anything edible they see right away.

They typically find food at feeders, on the ground, and in trees. People have also observed house finches sitting in place while rapidly pecking at seeds to crush them.

House finches are unlike other birds that switch to insect-eating during the spring and summer – they are one of the few birds that only strictly eat fruit and vegetables all year round!

6. Behavior


House finches can be noisy birds. The finch, small brown bird, can often be heard chirping shrilly while flying or perched on a branch. They are also known to be songbirds, with the males being more active singers than the females.

In terms of mating, house finches are not the most loyal of birds. Most find new partners every breeding season. There are a few, though, who stick together for a more extended period.

Parents often stick around long enough to feed their chicks together despite the constant switching. Baby house finches fly away from their nest at about two weeks old.

Other Similar-Looking Species


As beautiful as they are, house finches do not look particularly unique next to many other species. Looking at pictures of finches, it may be challenging to differentiate one from the other.

Here are a few other species that you might mistake for a house finch:

  • Purple Finch
  • Cassin’s Finch
  • Red Crossbill
  • Common Redpoll
  • House sparrows
  • Pine Siskin
  • Wrens
  • Dickcissel

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Finch and a House Finch?

Finches are an entire family of birds. A House Finch is simply one type of finch bird.

Other finches include the Purple Finch, Brown-capped Finch, and Black Rosy-Finches. But the finch family is a big one that also contains crossbills, redpolls, siskins, and grosbeaks (like cardinals)!

What does a House Finch eat?

House finches thrive on a diet of seeds, berries, fruit, vegetables, and buds. They sometimes also eat small flowers and insects. 

Baby finches are fed mashed-up seeds by their parents until they grow strong enough to break open seeds for themselves.

Where did the House Finch originate from?

House finches are native to the US west coast. However, in the 1940s, a pet dealer unsuspectingly introduced the species to the east coast, not anticipating how quickly they would spread as far as Hawaii!

Today, some homeowners treat them as pests that build nests in their roofs and gutters. While they are not destructive, they can be loud and leave droppings everywhere.


While finches are popular pets, house finches are not on that list! In fact, you need a permit to own one in most states.

So if you want to enjoy watching and listening to a house finch, the best way is to set up a bird feeder in your yard full of all its favorite seeds and wait.

Because hopefully, at the end of this article, you will have a pretty good grasp of what does a house finch look like and will be able to spot one when it comes!

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