What to Know About Finches

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 27, 2022
5 min read

You’ve probably seen these cute little birds in your local pet stores or even congregating in the wild, flocking in backyards, foraging for food, and gathering around bird feeders. 

But what is a finch bird? There are several types of finches, with more than 227 species worldwide. Of those species, 60 are red-listed, and 41 are endangered or extinct.

One of the most common finches is the house finch. These colorful little birds were once found mostly around Mexico and parts of the western United States. In the 1940s, house finches had been illegally captured and caged and were sold in a pet store in New York as Hollywood finches. 

To avoid the consequences of selling these birds illegally, the pet store set the birds free, and they began spreading throughout the eastern parts of the United States. Since then, it’s estimated that there are around a billion wild house finches. They can now be spotted throughout the U.S from the east coast to the west coast. They’ve even been spotted in parts of southern Canada.

Another common type of finch spotted in the wild is the Darwin finch, named after Charles Darwin. These finches have 14 species and are also sometimes called Galapagos finches. These birds are often found on the Galapagos islands. They’re known to be fearless and noisy creatures and are the size of sparrows.

Darwin finches fall into four categories: Genus Geospiza, Genus Camarhynchus, Genus Certhidea, and Genus Pinaroloxias. These four categories contain species from Darwin’s finches: 

  • Genus Geospiza: The large cactus finch, sharp-beaked ground finch, medium ground finch, small ground finch, large ground finch, and common cactus finch are all species found under the Genus Geospiza category.
  • Genus Camarhynchus: The Genus Camarhynchus category has the vegetarian finch, the large tree finch, the medium tree finch, the small tree finch, the woodpecker finch, and the mangrove finch. 
  • Genus Certhidea and Genus Pinaroloxias: The Genus Certhidea and Genus Pinaroloxias groups have one finch each, the warbler finch and the cocos island finch, respectively.

Finch characteristics are split into two categories: physical characteristics, which are how finches look, and behavioral characteristics, which are how they act. 

Physical Characteristics 

Most finches are alike in size and stoutness, being small and round birds. Finches usually have notched or forked tails, pointed wings, rounded bodies and heads, and triangular bills, but the bills vary from species to species. 

Finches come in various colors, from shades of purple, red, black, orange, yellow, blue, brown, and more. Many have more than one color. Finches can also vary between genders of specific species. For example, the male Zebra finch is a colorful bird with black and white striped tales and chests, brown side feathers, and orange cheeks. Females are usually gray.

Other types of finches, such as Darwin’s finches, come in duller colors of gray, brown, black, and olive. 

Behavioral Characteristics 

Finch birds are songbirds who enjoy singing and chirping. They’re also quite active and can often be seen fluttering around their enclosures. Despite being social creatures, finches don’t require much human interaction. Instead, it’s important to house them with other finches as they enjoy the company of other birds over the company of humans. These birds are usually untamable and don’t become affectionate or like being held, even by their owners. 

Finch birds are relatively low maintenance and don’t require too much care. They’ll often find ways to entertain themselves, even when no toys are present in their environment.

In finch bird care, it’s important to pay close attention to the finch habitat and diet. When you give them a comfortable home and feed them an appropriate diet, you can expect your finch bird to have a healthy and happy life. 

Finch Bird Habitat

Finches are social birds. It’s recommended to keep them in small groups or pairs. However, not all finch breeds get along with each other, so it’s important to be careful when mixing different types.

The enclosure should be around 36 inches long, 14 inches high, and 10 inches wide for housing. Add plenty of size-appropriate perches. Perches vary in size depending on the size of a bird’s feet. Perches that are too large can be harder for your finch to grip onto and can result in injury. In addition to paying attention to the size of the perch, it’s important to place the perches in strategic locations where your finch won’t defecate in their water or food. Perches can also be purchased in several textures and shapes.

The finch’s enclosure should be placed away from windows and areas that receive drafts. Finches are temperature-sensitive, and high and low temperatures can cause harm to your finch. 

Finch Bird Diet

Finches must receive regular feeding to keep up with their high metabolism. Going more than 24 hours without food can cause finches to become sick. Finches require a fortified seed diet. You can also feed them chopped dark green and yellow vegetables, fruits, hard-cooked eggs, and grated cheeses. Powered vitamins can be sprinkled on their food to supplement their diets. Uneaten food should be removed from enclosures after 2 hours to prevent food spoilage.

Finches also require access to fresh water daily. Water dishes should be thoroughly washed daily. This helps prevent bacteria from growing.

Finches face several conservation problems, depending on where they’re located. The issues finches face in the wild include predators, habitat loss, and invasive species competing for food and territory. Avian malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, and climate change also affect wild finches.

House finches are known to carry certain diseases and compete against other birds, such as purple finches, when it comes to food. Due to this, the house finch is considered an invasive species in some areas. 

Finches are susceptible to diarrhea issues due to receiving too much liquid from their vegetable and fruit diet. If you notice your finch has a wet stool, avoid feeding the finch any more vegetables or fruits to see if the issue clears up. 

Finches are sensitive and are often hard to handle. To help tame them, wings and nails should be trimmed regularly. If they are given proper care, the average finch bird lifespan is around five years.