How To Tell a House Finch from A Sparrow - 5 Differences!

House finch and sparrows are two different birds. If you are unable to tell the difference between the two species, then read this post!

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David A. Swanson

June 20, 2021

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What’s This Post About?

The difference between a house finch and a house sparrow can be unclear to many people. They are similar in shape and size but do not belong to the same family. House finch and sparrows both are small birds, commonly found in North America.

If you see either of the birds at a distance in your backyard, you may not be able to identify them correctly. If observed closely, many differences can be noticed in both birds. Yes, it can be difficult to determine which bird is which, given that many similarities lie between them.

House finches and sparrows are two different songbirds. The difference can be seen in their bills and color patterns. House sparrows have small conical bills that are in the shades yellow or black and a house finch has a big, thick beak with a grayish shade.

a house finch bird

Are House Sparrows and House Finches Different Species?

The difference between the two birds emerges from the fact that they belong to different families.

House sparrows and house finches belong to two different families. The sparrows are from the ‘Emberizidae’ family, while the finch belongs to the ‘Fringillidae’ family. Both the families are similar in many ways and consist of different birds with several distinct features.

There are subtle differences between the birds that belong to both families. Only birders with excessive knowledge can distinguish between the birds by studying the tiny differences amongst them.

a sparrow and finch bird


Some species like the sparrows and finches are so similar that birders classify them as small brown jobs from afar.

Where Are House Sparrows Commonly Found?

Insights of the habitat and identification of a house sparrow.

House sparrows prefer living in populated areas such as near buildings, suburbs, or cities. They are commonly found in the streets and parks in North America which is why people are not too enthusiastic upon seeing them.

a house sparrow bird


Do not try to go near a house sparrow’s nest, they are quick to attack.

1. Habitat

Birds like house sparrows do not prefer living in rural areas. They are mostly found in areas that are inhabited by people. If you locate the house sparrows, you will notice they are majorly found in the urban areas.

Specific locations consist of backyards, street poles, streets, storefronts, etc. They are also located in country areas near farmlands.

Interesting Fact

House sparrows prefer nesting in manmade structures instead of natural nesting sites.

2. Feeding Habits

These birds love to munch on wild foods such as a mix of insects and grass. They also look for food that has been disposed of in garbage cans or restaurant bins.

House sparrows roam around and also feed out of feeders where they eat different types of bird seeds. In farmlands, they tend to consume livestock feed and are also known to grab insects from yards and lawns.

a sparrow eating

Fun Fact

House sparrows do not fear humans and might even attack them if needed.

3. Appearance

House sparrows are small birds weighing approximately 1 ounce. They are mostly 5.8 to 6.8 inches in length and have wingspans of about 7.5 to 9.8 inches.

These are chunky birds with a small round head and a short tail. Their beaks are blunt yet powerful. If we talk about their appearance, they have shades of white, brown, gray, and black on their body.

Female sparrows are mostly dull gray with tints of brown. Both sexes have black and brown stripes on their back.

The male sparrows are brighter in color. They have white cheeks, a grayish head, a black bib on the chest, and black markings on the back.

a female sparrow

Fun Fact

House sparrows are known to be aggressive birds.

Where Are House Finches Commonly Found?

Insights of the habitat and identification of a house finch.

House finches are similar to house sparrows. They like to live in populated areas with buildings and human activity around. They like to fly across urban areas as they easily find a clean food source, a ready shelter, and protection from wild predators.

a female house finch

1. Habitat

House finches are commonly found in grasslands and deserts in the Western United States. You may notice that their appearance may vary depending on their diet. They are often seen in yards and parks as they like being present in areas close to people.

Specific locations where house finches prefer to visit are stream sides, oak savannah, coniferous forests, desert, etc.


House finches move to lower altitudes in the winter season.

2. Feeding Habits

House finches love to feed on weed seeds. They come together to form a group at bird feeders or on high trees which consist of seeds.

They also munch on flower parts like buds and on small fruits and berries that grow in the late summers. These birds occasionally prefer consuming small insects such as aphids.

female finch feeding

Fun Fact

House finches even feed on cactus.

3. Appearance

House finches are smaller than sparrows. They weigh approximately 0.9 ounces. They are 5 to 5.5 inches long and have a wingspan of 7.9 to 9.9 inches. Their heads are in a flat and long shape. These birds have small wings, pointy beaks, and a short tail with a sharp notch.

The male finches are brighter than the females. Females are full of a dull grayish brown shade. The male finches have brown streaks on their back, tails, and belly.

They have a red plumage on their face and chest. The more carotenoids they consume in their diet, the redder these birds are.

male female finch pair

Fun Fact

Female finches prefer redder partners.

What Are the Different Types of Finches?

There are many birds in this particular species. These birds will be identified below.

Finches themselves consist of a variety of birds that are found with slight differences in appearances. These birds include House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch, and Pine Siskin.

What Are the Different Types of Sparrows?

There are many birds in this particular species. These birds will be identified below.

Sparrows are found in many forms and names all around the world. The birds that fall under the sparrow’s family include Golden-crowned Sparrow, White-Crowned Sparrow, Dark-Eyed Junco, California Towhee, Spotted Towhee, Mourning Dove, and House Sparrows.

If you are interested to watch and observe all these different birds, you can start bird watching today. To learn more about bird watching, read through this post, especially if you’re a beginner.

How to Start Bird Watching? A Fantastic Guide for An Enthralling Experience!

Is the trend of birdwatching catching onto you? Are you looking to amplify your birdwatching experience? Don’t miss out on reading this fantastic guide.

How To Differentiate Between Sparrows and Finches?

The distinguishing features may help to identify the type of bird correctly.

There are many differences between the two songbirds. These differences are about their shape, diet, and plumage. To notice and identify these differences, the birds need to be studied closely.

birds in snow

Keep reading to add to your knowledge about the variations that may occur between these birds.


If you notice a hint of the red shade, you can be sure that the bird is a finch.

1. Size And Shape

A house finch has a thick beak that is bigger than that of the sparrow’s beak whereas a house sparrow has a more conical-shaped bill that is smaller in size than the finch’s bill.

The beak of a finch is of a grayish silver color while the sparrow has a yellow or black bill depending on the gender and age of the bird.

To study more about the sparrows found in the United States, you can read consider purchasing a comprehensive bird guide.

National Geographic Backyard Guide to the Birds of North America

Revised guide to 150 of the most common and interesting birds in North America

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A sparrow’s tail is rounded, and its wings are broader than the body.

2. Plumage

House sparrows are mostly darker than the house finches. To study more about the differences you can observe these birds when they visit your yard. The house sparrows have streaks of dark brown and black on their body. Their wings and back also have black shade on them.

a house sparrow

If we talk about the House finches, they have streaks of brown on their belly and flanks. Both females and males have a similar brown shade.

The male house finch has a red plumage on their breasts, face, and rumps while the males of house sparrow’s species have gray heads, black bib, and white cheeks.

a house finch


A house finch’s wings are shorter than the body.

What Are Some Other Similar Birds?

There are bird species that resemble the sparrows and the finches. Who are they?

House finches and house sparrows are difficult to distinguish due to their similar features. However, there are many other birds too that are similar to these two bird species.

Experts can quickly tell the difference by observing the key features of the bird however, non-birders may find it difficult to tell the difference. The list of similar birds is as follows:

  • Warblers

  • Grosbeaks

  • Chickadees

  • Wrens

a warbler bird

By learning about each bird individually, you can better distinguish between them.

Keep Reading!

The house sparrows are known to be the most common invasive species in the United States. House Finch on the other hand is only native to the western side of the United States and Mexico.

The post consists of all the details required to distinguish between the house sparrows and the house finches. Recent declines in the population of house sparrows have been observed recently. This fact is supported by many scientific experiments.

This post, through facts and pro-tips, provides enough information for you to tell the difference between the two species.

To learn further about sparrows, here’s a post you can read to identify whether sparrows migrate or not.

Do Sparrows Migrate? You Won’t Believe It But It’s True

Are you particularly intrigued by these little dusty birds’ migration plans? Then, read the post below for some amazing and interesting facts.

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By David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!

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David A. Swanson Picture

David A. Swanson

Bird Watching USA

My name is David and I'm the the founder of Bird Watching USA! I started Bird Watching with My father-in-law many years ago, and I've become an addict to watching these beautiful creatures. I've learnt so much over about bird watching over the years that I want to share with the world everything I know about them!



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