14 Types of Finches in California

Last Updated on November 21, 2022 by Lily Aldrin

Not surprisingly, the finch lives in California since it enjoys the lush vegetation and bird feeders that so many Californians provide.

As a social species, finches are typically heard before they are spotted due to their constant chattering.

Read this article to learn about the Types of Finches in California.

ImageName
House FinchHouse Finch
Black Rosy-FinchesBlack Rosy-Finches
Lesser GoldfinchesLesser Goldfinches
Common RedpollCommon Redpoll
American GoldfinchAmerican Goldfinch
BramblingBrambling
Purple FinchPurple Finch
Pine GrosbeakPine Grosbeak
Pine SiskinPine Siskin
Gray-crowned Rosy-FinchesGray-crowned Rosy-Finches
Cassin's FinchCassin's Finch
Lawrence's GoldfinchesLawrence's Goldfinches
Evening GrosbeakEvening Grosbeak
Red CrossbillRed Crossbill

Types of Finches in California

1. House Finch

House Finch

The house finch spends every season in the Golden State.

House Finches are Non-migratory, they are included in 47% of summertime checklists and 41% of wintertime checklists for the state.

Male House Finches are mostly dark with a crimson chest and crown. In general, women have brown streaks over their bodies.

House Finches were endemic to the western United States but have since been imported to the eastern United States, where they have thrived to the point of driving the Purple Finch to extinction.

Habitat 

House Finches are common in open areas, woodland margins, backyards, and farms, where they congregate in loud flocks to eat at bird feeders. They eat young leaves, flower buds, and fruit.

House Finches sometimes make their nests in dense underbrush or shrubs, in tree holes, or even in man-made structures.

All natural materials, including leaves, grass, feathers, and twigs, are used in their construction by the female.

As many as 6 eggs may be laid at once, and it may take 2 weeks for them to hatch.

Food

Millet, black oil sunflower seeds and nyjer or milo seeds in platform feeders or tube feeders can entice House Finches to your garden.

Caged House Finches were introduced to the island. They thrived after being placed in the wild and quickly expanded over the eastern United States.

2. Black Rosy Finches

Black Rosy-Finch

There have been documented sightings of the critically endangered Black Rosy Finches in the Aspendell area as recently as 2011.

The medium-sized Black Rosy-Finch is easily distinguished by its grayish-white crown against a black skull.

The remainder of its body is a dark brown color, and its tummy has pink stripes.

In order to attract a mate, an adult bird will become uniformly black during the breeding season, drawing attention to the bright pink streaks on its wings and stomach. The skin of juveniles is darker.

Black-Rosy Finches spend the winter in the high mountains of the Western United States.

Habitat & Food

The Black Rosy-Finch is a common sight in the alpine tundra and grasslands.

The winter months may find them in the open terrain and lowlands, despite their preference for rocky peaks and snowfields.

The highest points of mountains, rock outcroppings, and cliff faces are ideal locations for their nesting.

Black Rosy-Finches consume a variety of leaves, worms, insects, seeds, and young plants during the summer. Their diet consists mostly of seeds during the colder months.

The Black Rosy-Finch builds its nests in inhospitable areas like cliffside nooks and boulder clefts.

Nests are typically constructed by the female using materials like moss, grass, feathers, and animal hair.

Two weeks after she lays her four or so eggs, the little ones will emerge. Once another 3 weeks have passed, the chicks will depart the nest.

A special pouch at the base of their tongue allows black, rosy finches to save food for their babies.

3. Lesser Goldfinches

Lesser Goldfinch

The smaller, more delicate Lesser Goldfinches spend the whole year in the Golden State. Thirty percent of summertime checklists and twenty-two percent of winter checklists throughout the state include them.

The small, vivid yellow and black Lesser Goldfinches are songbirds that have long, pointy wings and short, hooked tails.

The females are olive on the top and a duller yellow on the bottom.

Range

The Lesser Goldfinch is a permanent resident of the southwestern United States and the Pacific coast, although its breeding population in the center of the western United States migrates south for the winter season.

Habitat

Lesser Goldfinches congregate in large groups in open areas such as gardens, parkland, weedy fields, and clearings in the forest.

As well as sunflower seeds, coffeeberry fruit, elderberry fruits, and the buds of willows, cottonwoods, sycamores, and alders are among the foraged foods.

Lesser goldfinches often construct their nests in low shrubs or trees.

The female builds a nest from plant materials such as bark, twigs, leaves, and rootlets for her clutch of three to six eggs.

She may wait up to a whole 12 days to hatch them in the incubator.

Food

Sunflower seeds and nyjer may be placed in platform feeders or on tube feeders to entice Lesser Goldfinches to your garden.

As its name suggests, the Lesser Goldfinch is the tiniest of the Goldfinch species.

4. Common Redpoll

Common Redpolls

Even though Common Redpolls aren’t supposed to be within California, they’ve been seen in the area recently, especially in Chester and Mono City.

Common Redpolls are little birds with red foreheads and brown and white wing and body markings.

Pink breasts are not exclusive to women; men have them too. Small beaks, even for finches, and a short tail with a notch.

Breeding in the Canadian Arctic, Common Redpolls spends the remainder of the year in the northern and, to a lesser extent, central United States.

Read:  11 Types of Finches in North America

During the winter, they may dig underground to keep warm.

Eating up to 42% of their body weight daily, they may also store up to 2 grams of seeds in a flexible park of their esophagus.

Habitat

Common Redpolls prefer weedy fields and tree catkins, although they may visit bird feeders for nyjer and thistle seeds.

Common Redpolls build their nests in the shadows of rocks or thick, low shrubbery. Moss, plant material, feathers, and animal hair are often used to construct nests, which insulate both the birds and their eggs.

Females typically lay between four and seven eggs, which she then incubates for around eleven days. Babies remain in the nest for another 2 weeks after they hatch, when their moms continue to feed and care for them.

Food

Feeding Common Redpolls shelled sunflower seeds and nyjer seeds can entice them to spend time in your garden.

5. American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

The American Goldfinch may be seen across California throughout the year, but the best times to see a large flock are in April and November when the birds migrate.

Somewhere between 9 and 11 percent of migratory checklists include them.

The American goldfinch is a common and beautiful species of bird. In the spring, the males are striking yellow and black.

Females, and males, throughout the winter, have a darker brown color.

For the most part, American Goldfinches spend the winter, where they spend the rest of the year in the northern hemisphere. Those that breed across the Midwest and Canada, however, go south to warmer climes during the winter.

Habitat

The American goldfinch prefers to forage in weedy meadows and overgrown places, where it may obtain sunflower, thistle, and aster plants.

In addition to parks, city neighborhoods and suburban and rural backyards all often have them.

American Goldfinches often build their nests in young trees or bushes.

The female will construct these nests from bark strips, grass, and feathers and then place anywhere from 4 to 6 eggs on them.

The female incubates her eggs for around 10 to 12 days, whereas the male provides food for her.

Planting milkweed and thistles in your garden can bring in American Goldfinches. They’ll stop by just about any bird feeder, but they love nyjer and sunflower seeds.

It is well knowledge that Brown-headed Cowbirds will lay their eggs in a nest occupied by American Goldfinches; nevertheless, the young of both species cannot survive on the seed diet provided by the parents.

6. Brambling

Brambling

From November to March, you may get a chance to see bramblings across California.

These little birds, known as bramblings, have black heads and orange chests and necks. Their black wings are barbed in orange and white.

Having a white underbelly is one of its distinguishing features. Females resemble youngsters in pattern and coloring, with the exception of an orange crown.

During their annual migration, bramblings may be seen across Alaska, infrequently in Canada, and the northern states of the United States.

Habitat

Bramblings frequent birch tree groves, farmland, willow thickets, parkland, and suburban gardens.

They exist throughout the warmer months on a diet of insects and spend the colder months on a diet of seeds.

Brambling nests are often located high in a tree, safe and sound on a forked limb. Females construct the nest from materials such as birch bark, grass, and moss and then fortify it with wool, spider webs, and down feathers.

It might take as long as 2 weeks for the 7 eggs in the nest to hatch.

Only in their typical winter range can bramblings gather in flocks numbering in the hundreds, if not millions.

7. Purple Finch

Purple Finch

You may see Purple Finches across California any time of the year, but the best time to see them is from March through the middle of July.

Seven percent of summertime checklists and three percent of wintertime checklists in the state include them as an observation.

Male Purple Finches are distinguished by their reddish-purple chests and heads, more brown on the wings and back, and a whiter stomach.

In general, women have brown streaks over their bodies. The only real difference is that they have a redder upper back, unlike the typical House Finch.

Although they are primarily a Canadian and East Coast bird, Purple Finches may be seen in the northern and western parts of the United States all year long.

Habitat & Food

The Purple Finch is a woodland bird that prefers evergreen environments and feeds mostly on seeds but sometimes on nectar, buds, and berries.

The nests of purple finches are usually found at the tops of tall trees. The barks, twigs, moss, and weeds that go into its construction are all natural products.

There are typically 3 to 5 eggs, and the female incubates them for about a month.

Feeding birds a diet of black oil sunflower seeds has been shown to attract Purple Finches. New Hampshire’s official bird is the beautiful purple finch.

8. Pine Grosbeak

Pine Grosbeak

Pine grosbeaks are seldom seen in California, although during the nesting season, you may find them in the forested eastern part of the state.

The male Pine Grosbeak is distinguished by his bright red plumage, greyish tail and wings, and two white wing bars.

The females have a faint orange on their heads and tummies and are otherwise grey. They’re big and sluggish for finches.

Most Pine Grosbeaks are located in Canada, but you may also find them in the western United States and the Sierra Nevada Mountains across California.

Habitat

Pine grosbeaks are found among spruce, fir, and pine woods, where they feast on the fruit, seeds, and buds of these coniferous trees. In the summertime, they also like snacking on insects.

Read:  11 Types of Finches in Illinois

The typical Pine Grosbeak nest is located in a low tree around 10 to 12 feet from the ground. Two to five eggs may be found in these nests constructed of moss, twigs, weeds, barks, and lichen. Approximately 2 weeks are spent in incubation by the female before the eggs hatch.

Place suet or black oil sunflower seeds on your lawn to entice Pine Grosbeaks. The Pine Grosbeak’s name fits the bird well.

Their scientific name, Pinicola, literally translates to “pine inhabitant” in Latin.

9. Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin

Though Pine Siskins may be seen across California at any time of the year, they seem to be more frequent in the state during the winter months.

During the summertime, they are only found on 2% of checklists, while during the wintertime and migrations, they are found on 5%.

The Pine Siskin is a tiny brown bird with yellow wings and tail spots. Their tiny, pointed beak complements their forked tail and sharp wings.

Pine siskins spend the winters in the pine woods of the western United States and Canada. As well as nesting there, some migrate south for the winter from Canada.

Their distribution throughout North America is broad and is mostly dependent on pine cone harvests.

Pine siskins get most of their nutrition from conifer seeds, although they also consume weed seeds and grass, and early buds.

Pine siskin nests may be anywhere from 10 to 50 feet from the ground and distant from the tree’s main stem.

They house anywhere from 3 to 5 eggs and are constructed from twigs, bark, and moss. The eggs have a 13-day incubation period.

Pine siskins may be attracted to gardens with feeders stocked with suet, black oil sunflower seeds, and thistle or nyjer.

The Pine Siskin is credited for inspiring the name “Siskin” because of its distinctive chirp. In other words, it sounds like a pine tree.

10. Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches

Gray-Crowned Rosey Finch
Credits – Wikipedia

During the mating season, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches may sometimes be seen across California; however, sightings have been concentrated in the state’s eastern regions.

The Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch is a robust little bird. Adults may be recognized by their contrasting black and white facial markings, brown and grey crowns, and pinkish underbellies.

A yellow bill in the winter transforms to a black one in the spring while they’re reproducing. Youngsters are a uniform brown without rosy undertones.

The gray-crowned rosefinch spends its summers in the western United States, where it overwinters.

Habitat & Food

In the summer, the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch may be found on bleak tundra, rocky islands, and snowy mountain peaks.

They migrate in the winter to areas with bird feeders, such as valleys, broad plains, and cities.

In the summer season, gray-crowned rosy finches may be seen foraging for worms and insects in glaciers, meadows, and snowfields.

They subsist throughout the colder months on a diet of sunflower seeds, mustard, and weeds.

The nests of Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch may be discovered in secluded areas such as cracks between rocks or cliffs, beneath rocks, or even in abandoned mine shafts and structures.

Nesting materials include fine grass, animal hair, and feathers, while the nest itself is constructed from roots, grass, sedge, and moss.

After around 2 weeks, the female hatch roughly four eggs, which hatch into young that are then able to leave the nest.

Feeding black oil sunflower seeds to Gray-crowned Rosy-Finches is a certain way to get birds into your backyard.

The seeds may be spread out on the ground or in station feeders.

11. Cassin’s Finch

Cassin's Bullfinch
Credits – Pinterest

Cassin’s Finches are most often seen across California from May through August, while sightings of this species are possible at any time of the year.

Male Cassin’s Finches are distinguished by their bright red plumage, which includes a red chest and a rosy pink cap, a whiteish stomach, and brown wings and back.

Males have yellow stripes, while females and youngsters have brown ones.

Cassin’s Finches are permanent residents of the mountain forests of southwestern Canada and the western United States. For the winter, some people go south to northern Mexico.

Habitat & Food

Groups of Cassin’s Finches searching among berries and cones in evergreen woodlands for food. Some insects, such as moths, and other foods, including berries, quaking aspen buds, and many other fruits, make up the rest of their diet.

Cassin’s finches often build their nests in pine trees or other conifers. Nests are cup-shaped and constructed from natural materials, including bark, twigs, rootlets, and reeds. 4 to 6 eggs are laid in each nest, and the female spends around 2 weeks incubating the eggs.

Cassin’s Finches may be attracted to your garden in the winter by providing sunflower seeds or by planting fruiting shrubs, including mulberries, grapes, cotoneaster, firethorn, and apple.

You can be confused with the male Cassin’s Finch. For the first year of its breeding life, it keeps the color and patterning of its feathers that are typical of females.

12. Lawrence’s Goldfinches

Lawrence's Goldfinches

The best time to see Lawrence’s Goldfinches across California is from March through July; however, you may see them year-round. Others go south for the winter from the northern part of the state, where they reproduce.

Little Lawrence’s Goldfinches are migratory birds. To identify the males, look for the black stripe that runs from the tops of their heads to the bottom of their chins.

Their chest, back, and wings are yellow, while the rest of their body is a muted grey. There is a white tip on their black wings.

Read:  10 Types of Finches in Missouri (with Pictures)

The females are patterned similarly but are a somewhat lighter grey. Male juveniles resemble females but are significantly paler in appearance.

Breeding within California, Lawrence’s Goldfinches make a brief migration to the east and south.

Habitat

The Lawrence’s Goldfinch is a species of finch that frequents open oak forests and shrubby habitats, particularly those with a nearby water supply.

You may find them in the wintertime around streams and other water features, as well as in weedy fields.

The diet of Lawrence’s Goldfinch consists mostly of seeds. Even if they have to hang upside down from a tree limb, they can get to their target.

They sometimes hunt for food on the floor, where they feed mostly on insects and buds.

Lawrence’s goldfinches build their grass and flower head-lined nests in the branches of trees, where they devote the majority of their time.

Usually, there are approximately eight eggs in a nest, and the female spends almost two weeks incubating them. For the next two weeks after hatching, the mother is responsible for the young.

The chicks will be able to leave the nest in a week.

Contrary to the direction most migrating birds go, Lawrence’s Goldfinches travel from the east to the west.

13. Evening Grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

The Evening Grosbeak is a threatened bird across California; however, it is often sighted in this area from April to August.

The Evening Grosbeak is a large, boldly patterned bird that flies after dusk. All adult males may be easily identified by the brilliant yellow stripe across their faces.

Their upper bodies are yellow, and their lower halves are black; their heads are grey, and they have black necks. Their wings also include a white patch.

The bills of females and young males are greenish, their bodies are predominantly grey, their wings are black and white, and their necks are tinged with yellow.

The western United States and Southern Canada down to northern California are the only places where Evening Grosbeaks overwinter.

When cone harvests are bad, however, they go south to the southern states of the United States.

Habitat & Food

It is common to see Evening Grosbeaks in wooded or mountainous areas.

They flock to garden bird feeders during the winter, usually because the food is readily available.

For their natural diet, evening grosbeaks consume flower buds in the spring, bug larvae mostly in the summertime, and berries, seeds, and tiny fruit in the wintertime.

Nests of the Evening Grosbeak are often located in pine trees up to 100 feet from the ground.

The nests are hastily constructed from random materials, including moss, rootlets, twigs, grass, and pine needles.

The female lays anything from one to five eggs, which she then tends for two weeks until they hatch.

Use berries, sunflower seeds, and maple bud cones to entice Evening Grosbeaks to your garden in wintertime.

An interesting fact is that Evening Grosbeaks can shatter seeds that are simply too tough to open for smaller birds. Thus, they stick around to eat what other birds leave behind.

14. Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

In California, red crossbills may be seen at any time of the year. Some migrate to the northern part of the state for the mating season, while others spend the winter in the southern part.

Male Red Crossbills have darker tails and wing feathers than females. The females are yellow and brown.

When their beaks are closed, they form a peculiar crisscross. Their tails are not smooth. The skin of juveniles is darker.

Red Crossbills spend the winter in the eastern states if the western and northern states have low cone harvests, but otherwise, they reside there year-round.

Habitat

Red Crossbills are mostly seen in coniferous woods; however, they are also often seen in roadside verges in the mornings, when they may be seen snacking on grit.

Foraging in large groups, they swarm from tree to tree, even smashing apart closed cones with their strong beaks to get to the seeds within.

Red Crossbills build their nests close to the tip of a pine tree. They are shallow saucers coated with moss and plants, fashioned from grass, bark, and roots.

Between three and four eggs are laid by the female, and the incubation period may last up to 18 days.

You may entice Red Crossbills to visit your garden by offering them millet, apple slices, safflower seeds, peanut kernels, suet, and other fruits and nuts.

Different species of Red Crossbills possess distinct beak shapes and vocalization patterns while in flight.

Birds with identical crossbills tend to congregate and understand each other’s cries in flight.

Conclusion

Small to medium-sized finches are able to crack seeds and nuts with their conical beaks.

Their bodies are round and compact, while their tails are notch-tipped and their wings are moderately pointed.

Big as they are, they stand out because of the vivid yellow and red coloring that is characteristic of the males.

Females are more naturally camouflaged since they are less brightly colored than men.

Identifying the many finch species found across California will be a breeze after reading this article.

FAQ

Do you know whether California is home to goldfinches?

Most of the United States, Lesser Goldfinches live across California and Texas; however, small local populations may be found around the country.

What's the difference between a sparrow and a finch?

The beaks of house finches are enormous and brownish in hue. The beak of a House Sparrow is considerably more conical and shorter than that of a finch; it may be either black or yellow, based on the species and mating stage of the bird.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.