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9 Finches in Texas: How to ID These Species (With Pictures)

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 26th, 2024
Finch in a bird bath

Texas hosting various bird species came as no surprise. The state has a reputable name in providing an enriching birding experience. The High Island, for one, attracts year-round residents and migrants.


You might wonder if you can come across flocking Texas finches here, given the place's rich birdlife.

Let's find out if their kind has summer residents and winter birds in the area. As we enhance our bird recognition skills, we'll have better chances of identifying some of these birds once they grace your backyards.

Different Types Of Finches In Texas

Do finches live in Texas? North American finches are among the most common seed-eating birds. The house sparrow is an exception since it first came to Europe in the nineteenth century.

You can see several of their kind around the Bear Creek Valley and other birding spots in Texas. Each of these finch bird species in Texas may vary in size, shape, and color. However, they all have cone-shaped bills with sharp edges.

This section will enhance your bird recognition skills by appearance, behavior, and feeding habits. It will help make Texas finch identification more convenient and make birdwatching fun and memorable for you.

1. House Finch

House Finch in a backyard

In the 1950s, the house finch became a valuable addition to the birdlife for most of Texas.

Before that year, you could only find this creature in the western part of the state. Nowadays, you will notice an abundance of their kind in nearly all areas within the state, especially in Hill Country. It also inhabits the Rolling Plains and Edwards Plateau.

Although, the number of this Texas finch declined on the East Coast due to conjunctivitis. The Cornell Lab documented this infection to raise awareness and stop its transmission.

Additionally, house finches may have an undeniable negative reputation due to their aggressive behavior. Still, despite that, these colorful creatures are among the common backyard birds, like the American robin and Northern mockingbird, with the most melodic songs.

Black sunflower seed is its favorite, but it often contends with a house sparrow, a mourning dove, or a blue jay on bird feeders. You'll typically spot this birdie in cities and suburbs when you're around the state, sometimes perching in trees.

There is a resemblance between this creature and the hoary redpoll, except for the latter's more slender body. As such, it confuses some new birders.

The female house finch features darker brown plumage with opaque streaks. In contrast, the males have sizable bodies and beaks with dominant red color on their heads and breasts.

2. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch perched on a tree

The American goldfinch is among the finches of Texas that regularly visit a bird feeder for its love of the needle-like Nyjer seed. When not breeding, it's pretty much a nomadic creature; you can expect to see this goldfinch in small flocks. Other than that, you can find it along roadsides.

I'm sure you wouldn't miss the males of this Texas finch in their eye-catching plumages of black and bright canary-yellow.

The male American goldies' radiant color starts fading in autumn. These birdies have a black tail, a white wing bar, a white rump, and short, pinkish bills. Male and female goldfinches will shed into a muted greenish-yellow and faint brown during the cold season.

Likewise, different cultures have distinct names for this Texas finch; some call it the beet, thistle, Texas yellow bird, or wild canary. Goldfinches are common in San Antonio backyards in spring; it is the best time to witness the male goldfinch in its spectacular breeding plumage.

Further, it's also a resident during the cold season that migrates to the North to look for breeding grounds in spring. While other finches in Texas use the ground to forage, the American goldfinch feeds on thistle feeders, similar to a Carolina chickadee.

Its ascending bell-like call gives away its presence when in flight. Many observers are familiar with their musical sound when in feeders. Flight calls sound like "per-twee-twee" and "ti-di-di-di" with brief periods of silence.

3. Purple Finch

Purple Finch perched on a branch

When in Texas, several birders spot the purple finch somewhere in Bear Creek Park in Houston. Alternatively, you will likely encounter this Texas finch in the suburbs, mixed woodlands, and the backyards. But in wintertime, you will see their kind inhabiting forest edges and old fields.

It is typical to see this creature traveling in flocks of up to fifty birds, visiting feeders abundant in thistle seeds and buds.

Despite its name, this birdie does not have a purple hue. Male purple finches' radiant red-colored heads and immensely streaked pinkish-brown upperparts distinguish them from a Northern Cardinal. These finches also have a brown mark between their bill and eye areas.

On the other hand, females have marked underparts, brown upperparts, broad white markings behind their eyes, and dark stripes towards the lower side of their throats.

Moreover, this Texas finch species is rare and would typically visit the northeastern part of the state in winter. Males would also start molting, giving its reddish plumage a frosted look.

4. Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin in a tree

The pine siskin is a common resident of coniferous forests in the northern hemisphere. It's among the finches of Texas having a more pointed and slender bill.

You will find how it is readily recognizable with its notable patterned upperparts and brownish cheek with more pronounced yellow spots on its wings and tail. Don't be surprised if you see it flocking with the redpolls, as such is a familiar trait of its kind.

The melodic song of this Texas bird will alert you of its presence, sounding like a sharp "shick-shick" and "kuhdew."

Don't let its seemingly ordinary look deceive you. Aside from being highly energetic and bold, this birdie is impressively skillful at disguising itself. Pine siskins can disappear like dense clusters of pine needles and cones once they see a Sharp-shinned hawk.

Although this kind is an invasive wintertime visitor, this small finch is pretty much abundant in Texas during that season. Houston Audubon considers 2020 as an irruptive year for the pine siskins due to its extensive movement outside its wintering range, going as far as Houston.

Many people have observed these birdies flocking together with the American goldfinches at backyard feeders during these times.

5. Cassins Finch

male Cassins Finch

New birders often mistake Cassin's finches with two other tiny birds: house and purple finches. These birds have distinctive brown and white plumage with bright red spots on the head and upper body, explaining the confusion.

Aside from these features, you can tell each one apart with the house finches' brown patterned underpart and faint brown tail. The purple finches have a pinkish neck and a pale stripe over the eye, while the Cassin's have bright red crowns contrasting with their brown hindnecks.

This rare and attractive creature also has an enchanting song almost melodic, sounding like a cheerful warble.

While it primarily inhabits the pine forests, you would likely spot this winter migrant in lowland deciduous areas during the cold season. During summer, it moves around in flocks towards mountainous regions or highlands in the west part of Texas.

The Cassin's migrate during their breeding season, usually between April and May. Its females take charge of looking for a suitable roosting ground and creating a nest while the males watch over their territory.

This birdie can be pleasant outside mating season despite its noticeable territorial behavior. Moreover, this tiny creature is a frequent visitor to mineral deposits on the ground due to its preference for salt.

Cassin's finches also enjoy feeding a bird seed, as much as they love buds, berries, and small insects. You may find their kind foraging in shrubberies that bear mulberries, grapes, and firethorns.

6. Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

The chunky evening grosbeak has this fascinating trait of being an insect-eater in summer and a seed-eater in winter. It is not unusual to see it sporadically flocking in large numbers with redpolls and crossbills during winter.

This North's grosbeak is an excellent example of how irruptive birds move around for food. It breeds in coniferous forests, moves south or southeast in autumn, or sometimes visits garden seed feeders.

Any birder would have no difficulty spotting this grosbeak almost the same size as the American robin. This stocky bird catches attention with its radiant yellow eyebrows, backside, and belly. Its wings and tail are a combination of black and white and have a large-sized conical bill.

Interestingly, this grosbeak is among the broad range of species with bilateral gynandromorphs.

It's a long-term condition where the bird has testis on one side of the body and an ovary on the other. This imbalance causes the affected birds to have male and female plumages on their bodies' corresponding right and left sides.

7. Common Redpoll

Common Redpoll on a fence

Many birding experts refer to a common redpoll as an irruptive species due to the food-related and ecological situation in the far North. You can only see this scarce winter migrant between December and February, and it sometimes shows up at tray feeders farther South.

This redpoll migrates long distances between subsequent breeding attempts, moving to where the spruce crop is good and stays there until food runs out.

You can identify this birdie by the male and female's red foreheads contrasting with their otherwise plain-looking plumage. It has patterned sides and back and white wing bars. You can only tell the male apart from the female with its pinkish breast and rump.

It is tame around people and likes visiting backyard feeders in small flocks. However, it is elusive as the other redpolls, visible for a moment, then disappear into a thicket.

The nesting sites of common redpolls are twigs in spruces, willows, and larches in brushy areas, scrub forests, and birch groves. The female looks for a nest site and typically has it over the branches of spruces, alders, and willows.

8. Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch in the top of an evergreen tree

Female American goldies look similar to a lesser goldfinch; you can differentiate them with the American's plain white under-tail plumes. In addition, the females and their juveniles are smaller-sized compared to a painted bunting.

On the other hand, its male has vividly yellow breasts than females, with a black cap and conspicuous wings. Only the males from Texas have black napes and backs, as those from Mexico along the Pacific Coast have theirs green.

Some thought that these two forms resulted from this creature having two different subspecies, although research has proved otherwise. This tiny creature is only five inches long with an eight-inch wingspan and does not go through seasonal plumage changes.

One feature of its male that you will find exceptional is its ability to incorporate parts of songs from other species into its distinctive repertoire.

Its kind might be rare, but lesser goldies are increasing their range to the North. You may even spot some of them in Amarillo, dwelling in brushlands where there are scattered trees and also in riparian corridors. But in winter, these goldies will take shelter in urban habitats.

9. Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill perches on a log

Red crossbills are migratory species that benefit from scattered pine-seed crops or insect infestations. It breeds wherever food sources are abundant. You will often find colonies of their kind settling where rich conifer forests are nearby.

While it is a conifer specialist, doing easy work with pine cones during an irruption year, the creature also favors spruce and larch. Moreover, the identification between crossbills is more uncomplicated than when you're doing it with other finches.

You will notice that a white winged crossbill features two broad white wing bars, which the red crossbill does not have. Both males and females of this type of birdie look similar to a pine grosbeak, except that red crossbills are smaller in comparison.

Looking at these birds closely, you will see that the male adults are brick red with brownish highlights on their wings. The females, on the other hand, are greenish-yellow with black wings. Also, it's the female that builds a nest inside dense foliage or near tree trunks.

This kind of finch has several variations, so it's typical to see them with varying bill sizes.

Despite this crossbill's different types that seem like separate species, you can differ one form from the other with their distinctive flight calls and feeding ecology. While birdwatching, you will find it crucial to recognize these birds' various flight calls and songs.

Some vocalizations you will hear while they're perched and others while they fly overhead. It is also least likely that you will chance upon this crossbill in feeders, and when you see them, they are often in small flocks.

Frequently Asked Questions

When are finches in Texas seen?

House finches and lesser goldies are permanent residents in Texas, meaning you can see these birds throughout the year. You will likely see American goldfinches in Texas from October through April. Pine siskins are wintertime visitors, while Cassin's finches migrate between April and May.

Purple finches are irruptive birds that are rare in Texas; you may have a chance to see them in late fall and winter. Likewise, evening grosbeaks and common redpolls are irruptive kinds of birdies that you can typically see in Texas during winter.

Watch this sighting of a house finch:

Are there finches in Texas during winter?

Attracting finches in your backyard during the cold season can be very entertaining. For this reason, many people set up feeding stations to provide a welcoming home to goldfinches, pine siskins, purple finches, evening grosbeaks, and common redpolls. While house finches are year-round residents, you can see an abundance of their kind exploiting feeders in winter between January and February.

What seeds do Texas finches prefer?

American and lesser goldies, house finches, and grosbeaks find tube feeders irresistible, especially if filled with Nyjer and sunflower seeds, cracked corn, and crushed peanuts. Pine siskins, goldfinches, and redpolls prefer thistle feeders.

Read Also: Best Finch Bird Feeders

Final Thoughts

The finches (Fringillidae) family is a diverse family of over 200 species in the United States. Seventeen of these birdies are in North America, and nine are in Texas.

You now know about three of the most commonly mistaken red finches in the area—house, Cassin's, and purple finches. These birds won't confuse you any longer since you already understand how to tell each one apart.

With the abundant variety of avian life in Texas, it's hardly surprising how these lovely creatures find their home there. The state makes an exceptional choice in achieving a rewarding birding experience.

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