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Purple Finch vs Cassin's Finch | Learn to identify Purple and Cassin's Finches

These three red-colored finches can lead to misidentification at your backyard bird feeder if you do not know what to look for. I hope to change that.

Male Purple Finch vs Male House Finch vs Cassin's Finch
The Purple Finch, House Finch, and Cassin's Finch can be a challenging identification to those new to these finches visiting their bird feeders!

This will be a series of articles addressing the identification of these three similar finches that frequent bird feeders. Sign up for our site if you want to learn to identify the Purple, House, and Cassin's Finches!


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If you want to learn about attracting finches to your backyard with a bird feeder, check out one of these articles:


Cassin's Finch and Purple Finch identification

In this article, I will focus on male finches; however, structural tips can also be helpful with female red finches. If you need help with House Finches compared to these two species, sign up above!

 

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Our favorite feeder for Purple and Cassin's Finches!

woodlink going green platform bird feeder for large finches

See our full list of favorite bird feeders!

 

When comparing a Cassin's Finch and a Purple Finch, I like to key in on a few distinct areas: head, flank, and back. Birders can quickly separate these two similar species using the field marks and the shape of these three areas. Let's explore using the photos provided.

Cassin's Finch vs Purple Finch
A Cassin's Finch can be easily identified vs a Purple Finch.


Cassin's Finch field marks

Head: The head of the Cassin's Finch has a few noticeable differences from the Purple Finch. The crown and forecrown of the Cassin's Finch contrast greater from the nape. It makes the crown and forecrown of the Cassin's Finch appear redder than the Purple Finch, though this may be only due to the contrast. The throat of the Cassin's Finch has less saturation than most Purple Finches, though this can vary in individuals. The feathers bordering the upper and lower bill are often white or buffy on the male Cassin's Finch. In a Purple Finch, this feathering is typically more colored purple, yellow, or buffy, though white is possible. A final field mark easily seen on these two finches involves the feather around the eyes. This field mark, the eyering, contrasts with the face color by being white or buffy in the Cassin's Finch.


The bill of the Cassin's Finch is straighter, larger, longer, and more pointed than the Purple Finch. However, individual variation can confuse birders when relying solely upon the bill. Combine this trait with those mentioned in this species profile.


Many backyard birders may attempt to use the crest of the Cassin's Finch as an identification mark, but both species can raise or lower their crests. Do not rely solely upon this field mark. It may show more frequently in Cassin's Finches, but an obvious crest, or lack thereof, does not guarantee a Cassin's or Purple Finch.


Use sunflower seed to attract finches!