Winter Finch ID

The Twin Cities area of Minnesota may host many species of finches in the winter, including a couple of species that reside in the area year-round. Here’s a guide to identifying some of those small birds that may be flocking at your feeders.

American Goldfinches (Year Round)

Winter plumage American Goldfinch
Winter plumage American Goldfinch

In the winter months, American Goldfinches exchange their bright yellow plumage for a dull olive-yellow coat. Look for the white wing bar on their black wings.


House Finches (Year Round)

House Finches have square-tipped tails and are heavily streaked. Males have a rosy, red-to-orange forehead and breast. They are common, year-round birds in Minnesota and may be mistaken for Purple Finches, which appear infrequently during irruptions in Minnesota. Shown: male House Finch (left) and female House Finch (right)

Male and female House Finch
Male and female House Finch

Occasional Winter Finch Species

Depending on food availability in their home ranges, we may see visits from some of these species in the winter in the Twin Cities Area (some are more common in Northern Minnesota).

Common Redpoll

Look for the bright red forehead and black chin. Male has slight blush on the chest. >>Watch our Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls video.<<

Purple Finch

Looks like a sparrow “dipped in raspberry juice”. Note: dark jaw stripe, dark ear patch and broad light stripe behind the eye.

Red Crossbill

Crossed beak shape and plain black wings.

White-winged Crossbill

Note the cross-over beak shape and white wing bars.

Pine Siskin

This finch is streaked throughout with a touch of yellow in the wings and the base of the tail. >>Watch our Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls video.<<

Evening Grosbeak

Larger bird (size of starling) with large, cone-shaped bill. Look for yellow eyebrow (male) and black-and-white wings (both sexes).

Attract Winter Finches

Most finches enjoy Black Oil Sunflower, Nyjer®, and sunflower chips. Serve in a tube, tray, or hopper feeder.

30# Nyjer® and Chips

$71.99 (before member discount)
This seed is the right size to fit through the small openings of a finch feeder. In addition to finches, chickadees, sparrows and nuthatches will love Nyjer® & Chips.

30# Dakota Mix

$73.99 (before member discount)
Consists of premium black oil sunflower and stripe sunflower, some in the shell and some without the shell for a less-mess mix. Cardinals, chickadees, and nuthatches will also love this mix.