Finches & Allies

Pine Siskin

Pine Siskin (Photo: Creative Commons)

Look For This streaky brown finch has a narrow, fine-tipped bill and shows yellow flashes in the wings and tail in flight. The pine siskin is 5 inches in length. They are often overlooked when mixed in with winter flocks of American goldfinches, which are drab yellow (but not streaky) in nonbreeding plumage. The siskin’s… Read more

Cassin’s Finch

Cassin's Finch

Look For The adult male has a crown that is brighter red than the rest of its head and neck, giving it a peaked-headed appearance. A pinkish red color on its breast is paler than the extensive red of male purple finches. Female Cassin’s are finely streaked with brown overall, especially on the breast and… Read more

House Finch

House Finch (Dark-eyed Junco in background) Photo by Frank Schulenburg/Creative Commons

Look for People who feed birds are familiar with the house finches that sometimes cover feeders with fluttering, tweeting flocks. It’s easy to see why they were kept as cage birds; the male’s cheery, rich song, marked by a few harsh notes, tumbles brightly down the scale. Females are streaky, pale brown birds with white… Read more

Purple Finch

Purple Finch (Photo: Creative Commons)

Look For The male purple finch is washed with a raspberry red (not purple), as if he’d been dipped upside down in raspberry juice. Unstreaked white flanks, belly, and wings help separate him from the similar male house finch. The female is covered in short, dark brown streaks, looking cleaner overall than a female house… Read more

Red Crossbill

North Carolina winter birds include crossbills and other species. (Photo: Creative Commons)

This highly variable species is usually a denizen of the North and of the mountainous, but periodic irruptions bring large numbers well beyond their normal range. Several types of red crossbills (as many as 10) inhabit overlapping ranges and vary in bill size and structure. Red crossbills possess unusual bills, on which the upper and… Read more

Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting (Photo: Creative Commons)

Look For Of all the birds in North America, the male painted buntings are the most vividly colored. Painted buntings have a dramatic combination of red, blue, and green. Though not as colorful, the female is distinctive too, with a color combination no other bird has—lime green above and otherwise unmarked. Other small greenish birds… Read more

Lazuli Bunting

Lazuli Bunting (Photo: Creative Commons)

The lazuli bunting is the western counterpart of the eastern indigo bunting and the two hybridize where they overlap in the Great Plains. The blue head and upperparts give the bird its name, but it is the white belly, the rusty breast, and the white wingbars that separate it from any other North American buntings… Read more

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting (Photo: Bill Thompson, III)

Look for Appearing all black against the light, a male indigo bunting properly lit is an unforgettable sight.  The breathtaking, all-blue male indigo bunting, with his silvery conical bill, is unmistakable. Females and immatures are a warm cocoa-brown overall. This bunting has a habit of twitching its tail to the side, and its spit! note… Read more

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male. (Photo: John Harrison/Creative Commons)

Look For The rose-breasted grosbeak is a songbird of eastern deciduous woodlands. In flight, male rose-breasteds flash a pinwheel of black and white, and if you look carefully and closely, you’ll see that both sexes have salmon-pink in the “armpit” region under their wings. Females and young males are streaky. The fall and winter adult… Read more

Blue Grosbeak

Blue Grosbeak (Photo: Dick Daniel/Creative Commons)

Named for its two most obvious field marks, the deep blue color and the thick, powerful bill, it is the heavy brown wingbars that set it apart from similar species. Found in summer throughout most of the southern two-thirds of the United States, the breeding range has been moving northward for more than 25 years… Read more

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