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Cassin's Finch: Photos & facts about the cheery finch

Updated on May 31, 2016

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For the meanings of bird parts which you do not understand in this Hub, see my bird glossary.

If what you want is not in there, please let me know so that I may add it into the glossary.

General information

The Cassin's Finch is a medium sized and cheery finch and it has a sharp beak. It has a longer bill than the Purple Finch. It has a swift bounding flight that is on rapid wing beats. The wings are longer than the tail when perched.

This bird was named after John Cassin, who was a curator at the Philadephia Academy of Natural Sciences.

A group of finches can have a few names, 'charm', 'company' and 'trembling' finches.


The size varies between 6" to 6.5". The average is 6.25". The Cassin's is larger than both the Purple and the House Finches, with longer wings and tail. The bill also averages longer with a straighter culmen (upper bill).

Male Cassin's Finch (Cardopacus cassinii)


Colors and Patterns - Male:

Male: The male has a rich red crown which also contrasts sharply with the brown on the rest of the head. The back is brown; the belly is white, the rump is red like the crown, with no obvious brown streaking. The bill is relatively long, and the head is often held slightly erect, which contrasts with the brown nape and the paler red throat.

Female Cassin's Finch


Colors and Patterns - Female:

Female: The female has a faint facial pattern of a light eyebrow. It also has a brown ear patch and a light cheek, plus a thin, well-defined brown streaking underneath. It has streaks on its undertail coverts. The bill is relatively long and there is often a faint eye ring. There are sharper and narrower streaks on a whiter breast and flanks that are sparser than on the Purple Finch. It has stronger head markings than those on the House Finch. The bill profile on the Cassin's Finch is straight and the wing tips extend down on the tail.

Colors and Patterns - Immature:

Immature: Both the male and the female immature are similar to the adult female. The immature male may sing and breed in this plumage. The immature plumage is kept for up to one year.

Just for notes, the similar House Finch has a much shorter bill.

Finches at feeders



The Cassin's Finch forages both in the trees, and sometimes on the ground for vegetation, but they seem to mainly eat seeds, berries and buds. It also eats some insects, and rock salt. Because they fancy salt they often visit mineral deposit sites.

It feeds both in Canada and the U.S., depending where it is breeding.


The female chooses the site while the male stays close. A nest is a cup of stems, rootlets, twigs and lichens that is lined with grasses. It is rather loose and frail and can be done in only a few days. It is placed on a branch of a conifer or a cottonwood, usually at the top of the tree. Or away from a trunk on a side branch but 15+' from the ground.

Since they are semi-colonial, different families of Cassin's might have their nests from between a few yards to only a few feet apart.

They have predators attack their nests such as certain hawks, Northern Pygmy-Owl and possibly squirrels, just to name a few predators. If they are threatened, they 'freeze' - sort of crouching - and make alarm calls which are very soft, moving nothing but their throats.


They can lay between 3 to 6 eggs; from 0.7" - 0.9" long and 0.5" - 0.6" wide; which are bluish-green in color and speckled with black, brown and purple marks.

Incubation: After they lay the eggs, the eggs are watched for 12 days before they hatch.

Fledging: After the eggs hatch it takes about 14 days for the birds to be able to leave the nest on their own, (altricial). After hatching, the baby birds are covered with a sooty brownish-grey.

Breeding: The finches can have 1 or 2 broods.

Cassin's Finch song

This is one of the various songs, and calls, which the Cassin's Finch is able to produce. Just click down once.

Voice: Song and Call

The Cassin's song is an extended series of musical warbles - similar to Purple Finch only flutier and more varied.

They may have several flight two to three part calls that they use at different times. One may be made by the male and the female may respond with another. Here are a few examples of what they may sound like: "tee-yup" or "chi-dee-yup", possibly "tee-dee-up" or "see-up" are other flight calls.

They do seem to mimic other songbirds a little.


Conifers in western upper mountain forests. Approximately between about 3,000' to 9,500' elevation. They generally live in forests of basically pines and firs. When they winter they go south to lower elevations, such as southern California or even Mexico.

The first tip of whether it is a Cassin's Finch is the habitat. Since the Cassin's selects the upland pine forests and the P. and H. Finches prefer the open woods.

Range map



The Cassin's Finch breeds from southwestern Canada, such as British Columbia and Alberta, south to southern California, Arizona and New Mexico, also parts of western Texas and northern Mexico. Visits lowlands during winter. Most of the time they breed between 3,000' and 10,000' of elevation.

There are some of these birds that breed in Canada and some in the U.S. At the present time it is said that the population of this bird in Canada is stable, but with the Mountain Pine Beetle having killed many coniferous trees in British Columbia, it may decline there. The bird may have countered for this in Alberta because it is considered secure there.

Conservation Status

Conservation: Who is to say which survey, or study, is best.

I read a survey by the 'Breeding Bird Survey' (BBS). It is administered by the National Biological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. It says that the population of the Cassin's Finch has a small increase.

There is also a 'Christmas Bird Count' which is run by the National Audubon Society. It is the largest survey of birds in the world. According to this one, the Cassin's Finch has a large decrease.

I read another survey that this bird is 'near threatened'. It is native to southern portions of Canada and the Rocky Mountain region of the U.S.

Cassin's Finch in sight

Have you seen a Cassin's Finch?

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© 2013 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      Thank you very much.

    • susi10 profile image

      Susan W 4 years ago from The British Isles, Europe

      Great hub on the Cassins Finch! Very interesting and informative I have to say. Voted up.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      aviannovice - Good point. I will have to review this and enter what I find out.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Very nicely done. I wonder if the bird does better in Canada than the U.S. for food reasons or better habitat?