If you’ve been following us for a while, you know that we’re quite fond of finches here at Valley Farms®. In fact, we recently did two exposés on finches: one on the Green Finch and another on the American Goldfinch.
The Fringillidae family encompasses 234 species, two of which are the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) and the Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus). These finches look and act quite similar, which causes even the most experienced of birders to frequently confuse the two. While they both enjoy a variety of wild bird feed like finely chopped sunflower hearts, there are distinct differences between the two.
Lucky for you, Valley Farms® has some tips for how to tell the House Finch from the Purple Finch.
Similarities Between House Finches and Purple Finches
The appearances of House Finches and Purple Finches are what cause most people to mistake one for the other. Both are small-to-medium Passeriformes with red and brown plumage. Despite their visual similarities, there are acute differences between House Finches and Purple Finches to look out for that indicate their uniqueness.
Differences Between House Finches and Purple Finches
While the home of a House Finch spans all across North America, Purple Finches are typically confined to just the Northeast, the Pacific Coast, and Canada. Purple Finches even go as far south as Florida for winter migrations, but the main thing to note is that they will likely be absent from the Midwest, whereas House Finches could be there or anywhere across the United States.
The body is the first distinguishing factor between House Finches, which are slender, and Purple Finches, which are stocky and slightly larger. As for color, House Finches tend to be red/orange-red whereas Purple Finches lean more rose-red/pink.
House Finches’ wings feature 2 thin, white wing bars; Purple Finches have rosy red wing bars. As for feather projection (how far the primary feathers reach past the end of the secondary feathers of the folded wings), the reach is significantly shorter on House Finches than on Purple Finches. Last on appearance, a House Finch’s tail is usually rather long with a shallow notch. This contrasts with the Purple Finch’s tail, which is short and features a deep notch.
The House Finch's warble is loud, resembles a "chirp", and lasts about 3 seconds. The Purple Finch's call is soft and akin to a "pik" or "tek" sound.
Click below for a YouTube video to hear both the Purple Finch and the House Finch's songs!
Both House Finches and Purple Finches like to indulge in wild finch mixes with golden German millet, Nyjer seed, canary seed, and of course chopped sunflower hearts. That said, give them almost any wild bird seed variety and they’ll be pretty happy. Just make sure to use finch feeders specifically. Both types of finches also have an affinity for insects and worms, enjoying beetles, aphids, and caterpillars. This is especially important to note for young finches, as they have a hard time digesting seeds.
While you won’t be able to tell House Finches from Purple Finches based on what they eat, how they eat could be a dead giveaway. More specifically, pay attention to their beaks. The House Finch’s beak is small and bulbous with a curved top and the Purple Finch’s beak is larger and more classically triangular.
Purple Finch at Bird Feeder
Valley Farms Wild Finch Mix Wild Bird Food $15.50
As a bird lover, the best thing you can do to support House, Purple, or any kind of Finch is to maintain a yard and habitat where Finches want to frequent. Keep your backyard well-stocked with high quality wild bird feed from Valley Farms®.