It is notoriously difficult to tell a house finch apart from a sparrow. This is because a house finch and a sparrow have a very uncanny resemblance to each other. The resemblance is even more striking when it concerns a female house finch and the sparrow.
I often used to throw my hands up and lump a female house finch and a sparrow into the category of “little brown birds.” While they are both brown-colored birds, it is not smart to wrap up their description into “little brown birds.” Are you struggling with identifying these birds? Don’t worry. You can tell these two small birds apart with the right information and attention to detail.
Female House Finch Overview
The house finch is prevalent in the United States, Mexico, and Southern Canada. These songbirds were originally desert dwellers and naturally began to expand their population into western countries. However, the house finch became popular in the United States because of the pet store trade. The pet store trade was illegalized in the 1930s.
When the pet store trade was made illegal, all the captive house finches were released. They adapted and spread all over the United States. House finches regularly visit feeders in the backyard, becoming the favorite of many bird watchers.
The female house finch doesn’t have the characteristic red color of its male counterpart. The female house finch is generally grayish brown. They share a resemblance with juvenile house finches. The streak on the female is gray, and her back is brown. Some female house finches will spot a light red pigmentation on their breasts, crown, and rump. These pigmentations aren’t as bright as the ones on males.
The female house finch is smaller than the males, and its wings are shorter. Generally, a male house finch trumps the females in the aspect of size.
The female house finch sings early in the brooding season, and their songs are usually shorter than the males. Remember that house finches exhibit courtship through feeding. The males feed the females. The female will usually sing as a way to get the male to provide it.
Both a male and female finch will go in search of nest materials. However, only the female builds the nest when the materials are gathered. The female also does all the incubating once the eggs are laid. She may occasionally leave her eggs to forage, but for the most part, she will stay in the nest, depending on the male to bring her food.
Sparrow Bird Overview
You must have seen a sparrow, even if you are not an active bird watcher. They are one the most familiar birds in the world. The term sparrow is an all-encompassing name for numerous species of sparrows. The term sparrow talks to brown birds.
These tiny critters can be found in almost every continent of the world. Just like vultures, they are divided into old-world sparrows and new-world sparrows. The old world sparrows are types of weaver finches that are found in the family Passeridae. They can be found in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The house sparrow, familiar to most of you, is an old-world sparrow. House sparrows are so common that they are considered invasive species. The chestnut sparrow is also a part of the Passeridae.
On the other hand, the new world sparrows are common in South and North America. They belong to the family Emberizoidea. There are a lot of species in the Emberizoidea family, and they have subtle differences in habitat, appearance, and range. Now that I have given you a basic description of what a female house finch and a sparrow look like, it is time to state their differences.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Size
House finches are small, but the females are smaller than the males. A male house finch is about 13-14 cm in size, and its wingspans are as long as 20-25 cm. A female house finch is about 1.3 cm smaller than a male.
The sparrow is larger than the female house finch, a little. The sparrow weighs about 14 to 32 grams and is about 5.5 to 7.1 inches long. Telling the sparrow and house finch apart based on size alone is difficult because these two birds are similarly sized.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Plumage
Identifying a male house finch from a sparrow is easy because the plumage of the male house finch is red. However, the ball game changes when you bring a female house finch into the mix. The color of a female house finch is grayish brown. The streak on the female is gray, and her back is brown. Some female house finches will spot a light red pigmentation on their breasts, crown, and rump. These pigmentations aren’t as bright as the ones on males.
The light pigmentation on the female house finch is probably the only way to tell them apart from a sparrow. The color of the sparrow is quite dull. You may find a mix of black, gray, dark brown, and white in the sparrow feather. Yes, I know it is quite challenging differentiating these birds because their color differences aren’t pronounced. But if you train your eyes enough, you might be able to pick the color differences, no matter how slight.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Bill
The female house finch has a bill thicker than the bill found in sparrows. The difference in thickness is slight, but it is an excellent way to tell them apart.
The bill on the sparrow has a conical shape. The sparrow has a conical-shaped beak because of its diet–seeds.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Range
Of course, even without needing to tell you, you should have guessed that the sparrow will have a wider distribution than the female house finch. Sparrows are on every continent, divided into old-world and new-world sparrows.
The house finch was initially distributed along Canada, Mexico, and the west coast of the United States. House finch has, however, expanded its range to the east side of the United States.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Family Ties?
No, there are no family ties between these two birds. Yes, they may look notoriously alike, but they don’t belong to the same family. While the sparrow comes from the family Passeridae, the house finch comes from Fringillidae.
Female House Finch Vs. Sparrow: Diet
The diet of the house finch changes its color. They eat a lot of flowers, seeds, buds, and fruits. The diet of the house finch affects the color of the male house finch. The diet does not affect the feather color of the female house finch, though.
The house sparrow eats seeds, and their bills are specially made to make seed-eating easier. However, house sparrows may also survive on the leftovers of humans.
Honestly, I don’t see a lot of differences between these two birds. There are minor differences between them, but they are negligible. One will have to develop a keen sense of telling birds apart before seeing the differences between these two birds, and I hope this piece serves as a nudge in the right direction for you.