House Finch vs. Purple Finch

Identification Keys and Tips

South Dakota Birds and Birding

NOTE: Two common visitors to bird feeders in the state, both males and females are generally relatively easy to distinguish from a few key differentiating plumage and structural differences.  Females are perhaps the easiest to distinguish, as the strong facial pattern of the Purple Finch female is dramatically different than the very plain face of the House Finch female.

Males are a bit trickier.  Purple finches tend to have more extensive red coloring than the House Finch male, especially on the back and back of head.  House finch males have distinctive streaks on their flank.  Other differences for both males and females (bill, tail, etc.) are noted below.

Note the Cassin's Finch is another Carpodacus finch that is extremely similar to these two species.  Cassin's Finch are found in the Black Hills, but aren't likely to be found elsewhere in the state. 
House Finch (Male)   House Finch (Female)
Carpodacus mexicanus   Carpodacus mexicanus

House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus

 

House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus

Height: 6 inches inches    Height: 6 inches
Wingspan: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 9.5 inches
Body Shape: Smaller, thinner body than Purple Finch Body Shape: Smaller, thinner body than Purple Finch
Body Color: Red on breast, brownish back with blurry streaking Body Color: Grayish-brown overall, blurry streaks on underparts.
Flanks: Streaks on flanks below wings Flanks: Blurry streaks on flanks below wings.
Head: Grayish checks, red on forehead and throat, plain back half of head Head: Very plain head, little distinctive marking or contrast
Tail: Longer tail than Purple Finch, with slight notch Tail: Longer tail than Purple Finch, with slight notch
Bill: Short bill with curved culmen Bill: Short bill with curved culmen
South Dakota Status: Common resident in South Dakota during all seasons. South Dakota Status: Common resident in South Dakota during all seasons.
   
Purple Finch (Male) Purple Finch (Female)
Carpodacus purpureus Carpodacus purpureus

Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus

Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus

Height: 6 inches Height: 6 inches
Wingspan: 10 inches Wingspan: 10 inches
Body Shape:  Generally heavier, stockier-looking body than House Finch Body Shape: Generally heavier, stockier-looking body than House Finch
Body Color: Unlike House Finch, extensive red on back. Body Color: Brownish overall, with strong dark, short streaks on underparts
Flanks: No streaks or very indistinct streaking.  Flanks: Short, dark, strong streaks on flanks below wings.
Head: Red color on entire head, including back half.  Generally strong dark auricular patch. Head: Strong facial pattern, one of best means to differentiate from House Finch female.
Tail: Short tail with obvious deep notch. Tail: Short tail with obvious deep notch.
Bill: Short, strong bill with fairly straight culmen. Bill: Short, strong bill with fairly straight culmen.
South Dakota Status:  Irregular, common to absent winter visitor in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west. South Dakota Status: Irregular, common to absent winter visitor in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.

 

House Finch

 

Purple Finch

Additional Photos Additional Photos
House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus   Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus
House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus House Finch - Carpodacus mexicanus   Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus Purple Finch - Carpodacus purpureus

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