Finches Vs. Sparrows


Finches and sparrows are small, perching songbirds found throughout the world. North American sparrows are members of the Emberezidae family, while finches belong to the Fringillidae family. Distinguishing finches from sparrows is challenging, especially for beginning birders.

Why Finches and Sparrows Look Similar

  • Although finches and sparrows are not in the same family, they have evolved adaptations to their environment that lead them to resemble each other in key ways.


  • Sparrows of both sexes are usually dull gray or brown. Male finches are usually brightly colored and easily identified, while females resemble sparrows in plumage.


  • Both sparrows and finches have short, conical bills that are well adapted for cracking hard seeds. Sparrow bills are often more slender, while finch bills are stouter and notably triangular in shape.

Sparrow Habitat and Diet

  • Sparrows are primarily ground feeders, seeking seeds and insects in fields and on the forest floor. You will often hear one moving about in the underbrush before you spot it.

Finch Habitat and Diet

  • You are likely to see finches perching on tree limbs. They eat wildflower, sunflower and thistle seeds. They are common visitors to backyard feeders, where the male's striking colors are unmistakable.

Non-Native Species

  • The house sparrow, a non-native species introduced from England, is not related to native sparrows. It is an aggressive, highly adaptable bird that has displaced many native species.


  • Photo Credit Image by, courtesy of claudiogennari Image by, courtesy of Noël Zia Lee Image by, courtesy of John Haslam Image by, courtesy of Nicholas Image by, courtesy of Larry & Teddy (nee Schlueter) Page
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