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 belly. Cassin’s finch has a longer, more pointed bill than either purple or house finches. Furthermore, Cassin’s finches are 6 ¼ inches in length.
Its song is a rich musical warble, softer in tone than the song of the purple finch. Call is a rising giddy-up!
The Cassin’s finch is a resident of the mountainous coniferous forests of the West and usually found in flocks, except during actual nesting. Found at high altitudes in summer, some flocks move to lower elevations in winter. After nesting, Cassin’s finches like to roam around in flocks, often mixing with crossbills and evening grosbeaks.
Beware… Cassin’s finches like to feast on human flesh. Just kidding! They are vegetarian birds that enjoy buds, berries, and seeds. In late summer and early fall, Cassin’s finches assemble into groups where they forage with crossbills and other mountain birds. Also, they are frequent visitors of mineral deposits on the ground to satisfy a salt craving that this species shares with other family members.
Cassin’s finches love nesting way out on a branch or at the top of the crown in conifer trees. Females lay 4 to 5 eggs per brood and incubate for about 12 days but that may vary due to weather conditions at high elevations. There is little to no evidence on hatching, parental care, fledging stage, or immature stage for young Cassin’s finches.
The Cassin’s finch (and the uncommon Cassin’s sparrow) were named for John Cassin, a nineteenth-century ornithologist from Philadelphia, a place where Cassin’s finches never occur!