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Finch Family

While they all readily gobble up black oil sunflower seeds, the smaller finches also enjoy having their own feeder stocked with Nyjer seeds. Finches tend to be nomadic, so you may see many birds one week and few birds the next.

by John Rakestraw
Photo of a male American Goldfinch on a nyjer stocking, taken by a Wood Village shop customer


American Goldfinches are found in open areas where they search for weed seeds. In winter, both males and females are a dull olive green. They have dark wings with white wing bars. In the summer, males turn bright yellow with black wings and black caps. Lesser Goldfinches keep their yellow color all year. These tiny birds show a small white patch on their wings. Pine Siskins are small finches covered in fine brown stripes. Their bills are thinner than those of other finches. When they fly, watch for flashes of yellow in the wings and tail.


House Finches are very common at feeders. The female is a sparrow-sized bird covered in blurry grayish-brown stripes. The male House Finch sports a red (sometimes orange or yellow) cap and breast.

Purple Finches have a stockier build than House Finches. On female Purple Finches, look for the light line over the eye and in the malar (mustache) area to help distinguish them from House Finches. Male Purple Finches show red over a much larger area, and lack the grayish-brown stripes found on the sides of House Finches.


Imagine a goldfinch on steroids and you have the Evening Grosbeak. These finches are recognizable by their large size, white patches on their black wings, and their massive pale bills. Females are olive-gray in color. Males show a yellow eyebrow stripe on a black face, and have bright yellow bellies and backs.
Male Red Crossbills are dull red with darker wings. Females are drab olive, also with darker wings. Crossbills get their name from the way their upper and lower bills cross each other like a pair of scissors. These special bills are used to pry the seeds from conifer cones, but work just as well to reach sunflower seeds in a tube feeder.


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