When you think about people owning pet birds, you might envision some type of parrot: macaws, budgies, cockatiels, etc. They all tend to top the most popular pet bird category. But the tiny finch is also among the most popular birds kept as pets and no wonder! These birds come in a variety of different colors and sizes and have lovely, gentle songs.
We found 40 interesting facts all about these beautiful little birds, so if you’re interested in learning more about finches, you’ve come to the right place!
The 40 Finch Facts
Finch Family and Species Facts
1. There are four different finch families.
There are hundreds of finches. They all fall into one of four families: Fringillidae, Estrildidae, Ploceidae, and Passeridae.
2. There are at least 650 species of finches.
About 230 species can be found in the Fringillidae family, over 130 in the Estrildidae family, 150 or more in the Ploceidae family, and just over 30 in the Passeridae family.
3. The Fringillidae finches are the “true finches.”
The group that is known as “true finches” all fall under the Fringillidae family. This group tends to have smaller conical beaks and long tails, and the males are brighter than the females.
4. Finches kept as pets tend to be from the Estrilididae family.
Parrot and Grass Finches are commonly found in this family and include the popular Zebra and Gouldian Finches.
5. The Canary is a finch.
The pretty little Yellow Canary is a member of the “true finch” family.
6. There are 17 species of finches in North America.
You can find about 17 different species of finches in Canada and the U.S., which includes the common House Finch (which don’t actually live in houses).
7. Finches have been around for about 10 to 20 million years.
Due to fossil remains, it’s believed that true finches have been in existence since around the Middle Miocene era, which was 10 to 20 million years ago.
8. Hawaiian Honeycreepers are critically endangered.
There are several different species of the Hawaiian Honeycreeper. There were 56 species, but 18 of these species are now extinct.
Finch Physical Characteristics Facts
9. Finches can be as small as 3 inches and as large as 10 inches.
These birds come in a wide range of sizes and colors.
10. The smallest finches are probably the Andean Siskin.
These finches come from the Andes in Venezuela and Ecuador and are 3.7 to 4.3 inches. But the honor of smallest finch can also go to the Lesser Goldfinch, which is 3.5 to 4.7 inches and is commonly found in Texas and California.
11. The largest is most likely the Collared Grosbeak.
These finches come from the northern regions of India and are 8.7 to 9.4 inches. But the Pine Grosbeak can sometimes be a little larger, at 7.9 to 10 inches. Their range is in Canada and Alaska.
12. The finch’s beak’s appearance depends on their diet.
The birds that eat mainly seeds typically have shorter and stronger beaks. In contrast, Hawaiian Honeycreepers have long, thin beaks for nectar.
13. Finches live an average of 5 to 10 years.
However, some have been known to live for as long as 27 years!
14. Finches are songbirds identified by their toes.
Wild songbirds can be identified by their feet, which have three toes pointing forward and one toward the back.
Finch Behavioral Facts
15. Chaffinches have different singing voices depending on where they live.
These birds can be found in most of Europe and are known to have different songs depending on what region they live in. It’s more like a regional dialect.
16. Bullfinches can mimic songs.
If you take a young Bullfinch and whistle a tune to them every day for several weeks, they will be able to memorize it and repeat it. You won’t be able to tell that it’s a bird whistling and not a human!
17. Finches have a beautiful song but are generally quiet birds.
Finches are songbirds, so they enjoy singing but they are relatively quiet. This is part of the reason that they are popular as pet birds.
You’ll find these birds in flocks of the same species. The common House Finch is rarely seen alone, particularly not during the breeding season, where you might see flocks of them in the hundreds!
19. Some species of finches hang upside down while eating.
The Lesser Redpoll, for example, commonly eats upside down. This only usually happens with the smaller species, as larger finches are too heavy to support themselves in this position. Feeding upside down gives them the advantage of getting at parts of seed heads or pinecones that they can’t otherwise reach.
20. The House Finch female prefers a red male.
The red-colored head of a male means they can provide the right kind of food for their young. Females typically choose the reddest male.
21. The Lesser Goldfinch is monogamous.
This species of Finch mates for life.
Finch Diet and Habitat Facts
22. Finches are found all over the world.
There is such a huge number of these bird species that they are found everywhere, except for the arctic regions.
23. The Galapagos Islands have 13 species of finches alone.
About 2 million years ago, one finch species found their way to the Galapagos Islands, probably from South or Central America. This one species turned into 13 due to the variety of habitats and methods of feeding. This process is called adaptive radiation.
24. The finch was responsible for Darwin’s natural selection principle.
When Darwin was conducting his studies on the Galapagos Islands, he discovered the variety of finches and their method of adapting and changing based on their environment. This discovery led to his famous natural selection principle.
25. New species of Galapagos finches are still being discovered.
Since Darwin’s finches seem to be continuously changing, scientists could watch the evolution of a new species, called the Large Cactus Finch.
26. What food the House Finch eats can determine their color.
Yellow color can signify inadequate diet or stress, but the red male has typically been eating the most pigmented food. The redder the bird, the more they can convert the yellow-colored pigments found in their diet into red pigment. Essentially, the redder they are, the stronger and healthier they are.
27. Finch nests tend to be basket-shaped.
Finches build their nests in evergreen and deciduous trees and on rock ledges and cactus. You might also see their nests on streetlamps, buildings, and even hanging planters.
28. The Vampire Ground Finch drinks the blood of other birds.
This might sound a little gruesome, especially for a small songbird, but the Vampire Ground Finch is one of the Galapagos Finches, and they are known to drink the blood of other birds. This behavior evolved from the occasional shortage of food. The Vampire Finch has a pointy, sharp beak that they use to remove parasites from Blue-Footed Boobies, and occasionally, this causes the bird to bleed.
Facts About Finches as Pets
29. Finches prefer not to be handled.
While finches are social and enjoy spending time with other finch species, they don’t enjoy being handled by people. Some might manage to become tame enough to be finger trained, but that isn’t usual.
30. You will need to own more than one finch.
If you choose to bring a finch into your home, you should have at least one other finch for company.
31. Society and Zebra Finches are the best starter pet birds.
Zebra Finches come from central Australia, are fairly easy to look after, and are ideal for first-time bird owners. Society Finches are peaceful birds that make various sounds and will even sing for you.
32. Society Finches were bred to be pets.
These birds are not found naturally in the wild. They are hybrids from the cross-breeding of the Munia and Sharp-Tailed Finches and are bred in captivity as pets.
33. While small, finches need large cages.
They need their exercise and space for alone time away from their cage mates.
34. Gouldian Finches are favorites because of their appearance.
These are gorgeous finches! A species indigenous to Australia, these birds are vividly colored. They are more sensitive birds than Zebra and Society finches, so they aren’t recommended for beginners.
Other Interesting Finch Facts
35. Finches and Canaries are famous for their work in mines.
In the early 1900s, coal miners used canaries as carbon monoxide detectors to help protect the workers from deadly gases. The miners enjoyed talking and whistling to their canaries. The practice came to an end in 1986, when canaries were replaced with actual carbon monoxide detectors.
36. The Goldfinch is the most common finch in the U.K.
They are commonly spotted throughout the U.K., and the number of sightings seems to be increasing. Good news for the U.K.!
37. The Mangrove Finch is the rarest finch.
As of 2018, there were only 12 breeding pairs and 100 known birds on the Galapagos Islands. They are on the IUCN’s Red List as critically endangered due to invasive species, including predators and parasites.
38. The American Goldfinch is the most common finch in North America.
The range of the American Goldfinch is in southern parts of Canada, throughout the United States, and into Mexico.
39. Four U.S. states list the finch as state birds.
Iowa and New Jersey both have the Eastern Goldfinch, and Washington has the Willow Goldfinch — these two birds are species of the American Goldfinch. New Hampshire has the Purple Finch.
40. A flock of Goldfinches is a “charm.”
This is the perfect name for a group of beautiful Goldfinches!
We hope that you’ve learned a great deal about finches. For such tiny birds, there’s a surprising amount of information and facts about them! There are many differences between the species but also many similarities.
If you’re considering owning one as a pet, just remember that finches are typically hands-off kinds of birds. They’re perfect for apartments because they’re fairly quiet, but you should expect to treat them almost like a fish aquarium — lovely to watch but not to touch (except when necessary). Unlike fish, though, they sing pretty songs that will make your day a little easier to get through.
Featured Image Credits by stanbalik, Pixabay