House Finch vs Purple Finch: Key Differences

house finch vs purple finch
You can tell the difference between a house finch vs purple finches by looking at their plumage. Male house finches have bright red feathers on their chest and crest, while male purple finches have duller red feathers on their head and scattered throughout their body. 

How to Identify House Finches and Purple Finches

Female House Finch
Female House Finch

Female House Finch

Female House Finches have muted brown streaks similar to a female Purple Finch and even a House Sparrow. Their feathers are brown and white with streaking on the wings and tail feathers.

At a glance, the streaking on their feathers looks almost blurry, which is one quick and easy way to tell females apart. Their heads are also brown in coloring with no notable features around the eyes and breasts.

Male House Finch
Male House Finch

Male House Finch

Male House Finches are much easier to spot due to their red coloring. The color of House Finches is more of a rosy red coloring around the face and a little bit on their breast.

Male House Finches are rosier in color, and their breast and tail feathers are mostly brown. Additionally, male house finches are much more delicate and petite when compared to other species of finches.

Female Purple Finch
Female Purple Finch

Female Purple Finch

The female purple finch is almost identical to a female House Finch, with a few important exceptions. Their coloring is also brown with white streaks, but the pattern is much more stark and less blurry.
The lines in the pattern of the female Purple Finch stand in stark contrast to their white coloring, making it a little bit easier to identify.
Female Purple Finches have a slight white mark around their eyes and the streak sometimes run down their throat.

Male Purple Finch
Male Purple Finch

Male Purple Finch

Overall, the male Purple Finch is the easiest to spot. It has a bright raspberry red plumage, almost like it was dipped in red wine.

This red coloring extends from the tips of their red heads down to their tail feathers. Another notable feature of the male Purple Finch is their larger beaks and overall build.

The male Purple Finch is much larger than the more delicate male House Finches.

Cassin's Finch female (carpodacus cassini)
Female Cassin’s Finch

Cassin’s Finch

The Cassin’s Finch is similar to the House Finch and Purple Finch. At a glance, it’s very easy to confuse the Cassin’s Finch with the other members of the finch family.

Here are some ways to tell this bird apart from the others. The very first thing to look at is the shape of the head. The Cassin’s Finch has a bright red and peaked crown that stands out against the rounded head of House Finches and Purple Finches.

They are primarily found in coniferous forests and mountain regions in the western portion of North America. If you reside in the eastern United States, you can likely check off Cassin’s Finch as a potential suspect at your backyard bird feeders.

Size of the House Finch vs. Purple Finch

Another relatively easy way to tell the difference between these birds is by observing their size. The House Finch is much smaller and more delicate than Purple Finches. Generally speaking, the House Finch has a smaller and more delicate frame than Purple Finches.

Purple Finches are plumper and less lean, although they only give off the appearance of a larger frame. House Finches measure between 5-6 inches long, while their purple counterparts measure around 4.5-6.3 inches long.

There’s a very subtle difference in size, but the plump nature of the Purple Finch looks bigger than the House Finch.

In our video below, we rounded up 10 little known facts about House Finches!

Habitat of the House Finch vs. Purple Finch

If you see a finch at your backyard bird feeder, odds are it’s a House Finch. While both birds live on both coasts of the United States, the House Finch is often found in residential neighborhoods and suburban areas from the Atlantic to Pacific coast.

House Finches are more familiar with humans and often make their nests in the sides of homes, street lamps, and even plant boxes.

The Purple Finch, on the other hand, lives in the western portion of the united states around and doesn’t commingle in suburban habitats very often.

house finch vs purple finch bill sizing and shape

Bill on the House Finch vs. Purple Finch

If you can get close enough to check out their beaks, it’s a very easy way to tell these two bird species apart. The bill on the House Finch is more bulbous than pointed. Their beaks are very short and curved at the top.

In comparison, the bill on the Purple Finch is long and narrow without a curved upper mandible. Even though these two birds have a very similar diet of sunflower seeds, thistle, and fruit, their beaks are surprisingly distinct.

Patterns and Colors of the House Finch vs. Purple Finch

Telling the difference between the coloring of these two types of finches boils down to splitting hairs – or feathers in this case! Male Finches are much easier to tell apart when it comes to the coloring of their feathers.

The male Purple Finch has raspberry red color all over its body, while the male House Finch only has red on its head and a little on its breast. Female House Finches and Purple Finches are very difficult to tell apart at a glance.

The simpliest way to distinguish between these two birds is the pattern of their brown and white feathers. On the Female House Finch, the feathers look blurry, and there are no clear lines. Female Purple Finch’s feathers have a very prominent lining in their feathers that makes them easier to pick out in a lineup.

Wingspan of the House Finch vs. Purple Finch

While Purple Finches look larger than House Finches, their wingspans are slightly larger. The average Purple Finch’s wingspan measures around 10 inches, while a House Finch has a wingspan of 9.5 inches.

There isn’t much difference in the wingspan of these two birds, but the slightly larger statue of the Purple Finch makes it a little easier to spot by birders.

Tail Feathers on the House Finch vs Purple Finch

If you look closely, the tail feathers are another easy giveaway. On the Purple Finch, the tail feathers are very short, while the House Finch has a longer tail.

It’s very subtle, but it makes distinguishing between female Finches just a little bit easier.

What Type Of Finch Is At Your Feeders?

More often than not, the finch nibbling at thistle at your feeders is a House Finch, especially if you live in eastern North America. House Finches are more prone to live in suburban areas with many people.

Even the most skilled birdwatcher may stumble when it comes to telling the difference between these types of Finches. The easiest way to tell the difference depends on where you live.

Tara Summerville

Tara Summerville is a freelance writer that loves her backyard birdfeeders. She enjoys sitting on her deck with a cup of coffee, watching cardinals, blue jays, finches, and chickadees munch away at her backyard offerings. Her fascination with birds began as a child; spending afternoons at her grandma's house watching and identifying birds. She has since carried her love of songbirds into adulthood and ensures no bird in her yard goes hungry!

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