Illinois has well over 400 recorded bird species including 11 species of finches. There are native and introduced finches as well as species that regularly breed in Illinois and those that do not. Fortunately, none of the Illinois finch species are endangered or even threatened.
The evening grosbeak is robust and large with a fairly short tail. It has a strong, green-yellow bill that enables it to crack large seeds; its diet also consists of fruits, insects and other small invertebrates. The males have brown and black heads with yellow eye stripes and predominantly yellow bodies, while the females have grayish brown upper parts and black and white tails. Yellow only appears around a female's neck. A patch of white on either gender's wings can be spotted during flight.
Purple finches reside mostly in coniferous forests during the summer where their songs can be heard from trees. Winter finds them foraging for fruits and seeds in mixed forests to fields and even backyards. These birds are larger than their forest neighbors and have strong, cone-shaped beaks. The males bear a distinct raspberry red color on the head and around the edges of the behind. Females and immature purple finches don't have this coloring; rather, they have brown heads with off-white stripes at the eyes, along the side of the throat and streaking the body.
Originally from the Western United States, the house finch has caused an apparent dwindle in the population of the purple finch, a species it closely resembles with its red face and conical beaks. House finches, however, have larger beaks and tails, red chests and a vague gray striping on the underside which isn't present on the purple finch. The house finch is very social and travels in groups as large as a few hundred. They can be found scouring the ground of forests or yards for their primarily plant-based diet, or you may see them in any of their natural habitats including deserts and grasslands.
The small common redpoll breeds in coniferous forests, visiting such areas as fields and woodlands almost exclusively in winter. There it feeds mainly on seeds, sometimes while hanging suspended from branches; in summers, arthropods are added to its diet. This species has a throat pouch for short-term seed storage. The male common redpoll has bright red on its forehead, upper breast and rump. In addition to a mostly white underside, the male has darker upper parts edged in lighter shades with a similar color under its tail and a black chin. The female bears a close resemblance, with red present only on the forehead. Both sexes have small conical beaks.
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