House Finch vs. Purple Finch

Identification Keys and Tips

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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)   Purple Finch (Male) 
Haemorhous mexicanus   Haemorhous purpureus 

House Finch - Haemorhous mexicanus

 

Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus 

Height: 6 inches     Height: 6 inches 
Wingspan: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 10 inches
Body Shape: Smaller, thinner body than Purple Finch Body Shape:  Generally heavier, stockier-looking body than House Finch
Body Color: Red on breast, brownish back with blurry streaking Body Color: Unlike House Finch, extensive red on back.
Flanks: Streaks on flanks below wings Flanks: No streaks or very indistinct streaking. 
Head: Grayish checks, red on forehead and throat, plain back half of head Head: Red color on entire head, including back half.  Generally strong dark auricular patch.
Tail: Longer tail than Purple Finch, with slight notch Tail: Short tail with obvious deep notch.
Bill: Short bill with curved culmen Bill: Short, strong bill with fairly straight culmen.
South Dakota Status: Common resident in South Dakota during all seasons. South Dakota Status:  Irregular, common to absent winter visitor in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.
   
House Finch (Female)  Purple Finch (Female)
Haemorhous mexicanus  Haemorhous purpureus
House Finch - Haemorhous mexicanus  Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus 
Height: 6 inches Height: 6 inches
Wingspan: 9.5 inches Wingspan: 10 inches
Body Shape: Smaller, thinner body than Purple Finch Body Shape: Generally heavier, stockier-looking body than House Finch
Body Color: Grayish-brown overall, blurry streaks on underparts. Body Color: Brownish overall, with strong dark, short streaks on underparts
Flanks: Blurry streaks on flanks below wings. Flanks: Short, dark, strong streaks on flanks below wings.
Head: Very plain head, little distinctive marking or contrast Head: Strong facial pattern, one of best means to differentiate from House Finch female.
Tail: Longer tail than Purple Finch, with slight notch Tail: Short tail with obvious deep notch.
Bill: Short bill with curved culmen Bill: Short, strong bill with fairly straight culmen.
South Dakota Status: Common resident in South Dakota during all seasons. South Dakota Status: Irregular, common to absent winter visitor in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.
House Finch - Range Map  Purple Finch - Range Map 

 

House Finch

 

Purple Finch

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

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