What Are Finches: Interesting ‘Finch Facts’ You Didn’t Know

There are many species that bear the name “finch”.  Actually, finches are not parrots, they all belong to the order Passeriformes. This is why finches are sometimes called passerine birds. Within the order Passeriformes, there are two main families of finches:

  • True finches
  • Waxbills or Estrildid

The true finches belonging to the family Fringillidae and the Waxbills or Estrildid (Estrildidae) finches belonging to the family Estrildidae.

There are more than 5,000 species of passerine birds. In fact, almost half of all bird species in existence belong to the order Passeriformes.

The name “finch” is given to a variety of small to medium-sized birds, although not all are considered “True finches.”  The birds are known as “True finches” belong to the taxonomic family Fringillidae and have conical beaks, an adaptation for eating seeds, as well as bright, colorful feathers.

Finches can be found in a wide variety of different habitats around the world, except in Arctic regions and Australia. In addition to the “True finches”, other birds that bear the name “finch” belong to several taxonomic families including Estrildidae (known as estrildid finches), Emberizidae (the American sparrow family), and Thraupidae (the tanager family).

Different types of finches can be found in different habitats. For the most part, passerine birds are found in the Northern Hemisphere, but there are some species native to the Neotropic regions of the world.

As already mentioned, “True finches” can be found in almost all parts of the world except Australia and the Arctic regions. Estrildid ​​finches, on the other hand, tend to inhabit both Australia and the Old World tropics.

Finches generally live in wooded areas, although some species can be found in deserts or mountainous regions. Some species of finches even have special adaptations that allow them to thrive in their particular habitat.

Interesting Facts About Finches

Finches, like a type of passerine bird, generally have four toes on each of their feet: three of these toes face forward and the fourth face backward.

  • This particular arrangement of the toes is called the perissodactyl arrangement and it is what allows finches to perch on horizontal surfaces such as branches and vertical surfaces such as tree trunks. Unlike some birds (mainly waterfowl), finches do not have webbing between the toes.


  • Finches are not only unique from other birds due to the perissodactyl arrangement of their toes, but they have another special adaptation that allows them to sleep while perched.


  • Finches have a special tendon that runs down the back of each leg, causing the leg muscles to tense up when the leg is bent. When the leg muscles tighten, the toes curl up and hold their position. This is what happens when a finch lands on a perch and it is also what causes the bird shape to fall off its perch even when it is asleep.


  • While the details vary from species to species, finches are typically small to medium-sized birds. The smallest of the true finches is the Andean goldfinch (Spinus spinescens) which is 3.8 inches (9.5 cm) tall. The largest finch is the Great Collared Finch (Mycerobas affinis) which is up to 9.4 inches (24 cm) tall and weighs up to 2.9 ounces (83 g).


  • Finches typically have large, strong, stubby beaks, although there can be a lot of variation in beak size and shape between different species of finches. This is largely due to the adaptive evolutionary changes of rapid radiation caused by a change in the environment.


  • In terms of plumage, true finches have nine remiges (primary feathers) and twelve rectrices (secondary feathers).


  • In most species, the base color is a brownish hue, sometimes with a greenish tint. Many finches have black spots or bars on their feathers, although white plumage is quite rare, except for signaling marks or wing bars. Bright yellow and red colors are also quite common among various species of finches. Many species also exhibit sexual dichromatism, and the female of certain species lacks the bright coloration that the male exhibits.

Although each species is unique, many finches have a kind of bouncing flight pattern: they alternate between brief periods of flapping their wings and periods of gliding with their wings closed.

Some species of finches are very vocal (sometimes to the point of being noisy) and the males of many species of finches sing to attract a mate.

When it comes to breeding, finches tend to lay colored eggs and the average clutch size ranges from 3 to 8 eggs, depending on the species.

Finch chicks are born featherless and blind, so they require a lot of parental care for the first few weeks, but once they are mature enough to fly on their own, they are ready to go independent.