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common name for members of the Fringillidae, the largest family of birds (including over half the known species), found in most parts of the world except Australia. The true finches are characterized by their stout, conical bills, used to crack open the seeds that form the bulk of their diet. They are valued as destroyers of weed seeds; many also eat harmful insects. Since seeds, unlike insects, are not influenced by weather, many finches are year-round residents in colder areas.

The finches, which are considered the most highly developed of the birds, are widely diversified; they are classified into three groups: those with small, triangular bills, such as the canarycanary
, common name for a familiar cage bird of the family Ploceidae (Old World finch family), descended from either the wild serin finch or from the very similar wild canary, Serinus canarius,
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, sparrowsparrow,
common name of various small brown-and-gray perching birds. New World birds called sparrows are members of the finch family. They were named for their resemblance to the English sparrow and the European tree sparrow (members of the weaverbird family), both introduced in
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, buntingbunting,
common name for small, plump birds of the family Fringillidae (finch family). Among the American buntings are the indigo bunting, in which the summer plumage of the male reflects sunlight as a rich, metallic blue; the painted bunting, or nonpareil (Passerina ciris
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, towheetowhee
, common name for a North American bird of the family Fringillidae (finch family). Towhees are also called chewinks, for their call, and ground robins, because like robins they are ground feeders—often detected by the rustling noise they make searching through dry
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, juncojunco
or snowbird,
small seed-eating bird of North America closely related to the sparrows. Juncos have white underparts and gray (sometimes also brown) backs. They travel in flocks.
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, and those birds specifically named finch (e.g., chaffinch, bullfinch, and goldfinch); those with thick, rounded bills, as the grosbeakgrosbeak
[great beak], common name for various members of the family Fringillidae (finch family). Grosbeaks are characterized by their large conical bills. The male rose-breasted grosbeak (Zamelodia ludoviciana
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 and cardinalcardinal
or redbird,
common name for a North American songbird of the family Fringillidae (New World finch family). In the eastern cardinal, Richmondena cardinalis, the male is bright scarlet with black throat and face; the female is brown with patches of red.
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; and the crossbills, rose-colored northern birds whose mandibles, as their name implies, cross over at the tips—an adaptation suited to their diet of conifer seeds.

The sparrows, genus Passer, which are field and hedge birds, are inconspicuously colored in dull grays and browns, but among the other, tree-perching finches, the male is often brightly plumaged (although the female is usually duller and sparrowlike). Most finches (except the meticulous goldfinch) build sloppy cup-shaped nests for their four to six speckled eggs.

Other species commonly called finches, especially many species kept as pets, are also found in other bird families. Estrildidae includes the grass, zebra, and parrot finches, waxbills, and munias, Ploceidae includes the weaverbirds and whydahs, and Thraupidae includes Darwin's finches.

Some Typical Finches

Goldfinches, genus Astragalinus, named for the bright yellow markings of the male, are found in Europe and North America. The common American goldfinch, A. tristis (thistle bird, wild canary, or yellow bird), is a year-round resident everywhere on the North American continent except in the far north. There are several Western species. The British goldfinch is cinnamon brown with black and yellow wings and a red face. Goldfinches are cheerful, musical birds, although the so-called goldfinches commonly kept as cage birds are finchlike members of the weaverbirdweaverbird,
name for the Ploceidae, a family of Old World seed-eating birds closely resembling finches (hence the alternate name weaver finch). It includes a number of so-called goldfinches and waxbill finches that are actually weaverbirds, rather than true finches of the family
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 family. The European bullfinch, with blue-gray plumage above and terra-cotta below, is often caged; it can be taught to mimic tunes. The chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs, also popular in Europe as a cage bird, is similarly marked but with a chestnut back and wings and tail. In North America the sparrowlike eastern purple finch, Carpodacus purpureus (actually rose-brown), has been largely driven out by the house sparrow. There are several purple finches in the West, where the house finch, or linnet, is common. The rosy finches are western mountain dwellers. The house finch, Carpodacus mexicanus, known for its lilting song, was introduced to the eastern states from the West in the 1940s. In the Midwest the dickcissel, which winters in Central and South America, is valued as a destroyer of grasshoppers. Several longspurs, genus Centrophanes, are found from the Great Plains northward; the Lapland longspur is a European finch that ranges to the NE United States. The redpolls, genus Aegiothus, are northern finches that winter in the N United States; with the pine siskins, goldfinches, and various other seedeaters they wander around the country in small flocks, often congregating at feeding stations. The grassquits, genus Phonipara, are native to the Bahamas and Cuba; the brambling, or mountain, finch is a N Eurasian bird that winters in the British Isles.


Finches are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Fringillidae.


(vertebrate zoology)
The common name for birds composing the family Fringillidae.


1. any songbird of the family Fringillidae, having a short stout bill for feeding on seeds and, in most species, a bright plumage in the male. Common examples are the goldfinch, bullfinch, chaffinch, siskin, and canary
2. any of various similar or related birds
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