AskDefine | Define finch

Dictionary Definition

finch n : any of numerous small songbirds with short stout bills adapted for crushing seeds

User Contributed Dictionary



Old English finċ.



finch (plural finches)
  1. Any bird of the family Fringillidae, seed-eating passerine birds, native chiefly to the northern hemisphere and usually having a conical beak.


any bird of the family Fringillidae


  1. To hunt for finches, to go finching.

Extensive Definition

Finches are passerine birds, often seed-eating, found chiefly in the northern hemisphere and Africa. One subfamily is endemic to the Neotropics. The family scientific name Fringillidae comes from the Latin word "fringilla", meaning chaffinch, a member of this family that is common in Europe. The taxonomic structure of the true finch family, Fringillidae, is somewhat disputed, with some including the Hawaiian honeycreepers as another subfamily (Drepanidinae) and/or uniting the cardueline and fringilline finches as tribes (Carduelini and Fringillini) in one subfamily; the euphonious finches were thought to be tanagers due to general similarity in appearance and mode of life until their real affinities were realized; the buntings and American sparrows were formerly considered another subfamily (Emberizinae). Przewalski's "Rosefinch" (Urocynchramus pylzowi) is now classified as a distinct, monotypic family with no particularly close relatives (Groth 2000).
"Classic" or true finches are small to moderately large and have strong, stubby beaks, which in some species can be quite large. All have 12 tail feathers and 9 primaries. They have a bouncing flight, alternating bouts of flapping with gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. Their nests are basket-shaped and built in trees. The true finches range in size from the Andean Siskin (Carduelis spinescens), at 9.5 cm (3.8 inches) and 8.4 g., to the Collared Grosbeak (Mycerobas affinis), at nearly 23 cm (9 inches) and 79 g. (2.8 oz).
There are many birds in other families which are often called finches. These include many species in the very similar-looking Estrildids or waxbill family, which occur in the Old World tropics and Australia. Several groups of the Emberizidae family (buntings and American sparrows) are also named as finches, as are Darwin's finches of the Galapagos islands, which provided evidence of natural selection.


The systematics of the cardueline finches are contentious. The layout presented here follows the molecular studies of Marten & Johnson (1986) and Arnaiz-Villena et al. (1998, 2001, 2007, 2008), and takes into account the traditional splitting of the genus Carduelis. The exact position of several genera in the cardueline sequence is tentative.

Family Fringillidae

  • Subfamily Fringillinae - Fringilline finches; contains only three species, which feed their young on insects rather than seeds.
  • Subfamily Drepanidinae - Hawaiian honeycreepers. Usually treated as a separate family but biochemical studies (Arnaiz-Villena et al, 2007) place them as a well-defined clade deep within the Carduelines.


  • Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Álvarez-Tejado, M.; Ruiz-del-Valle, V.; García-de-la-Torre, C.; Varela, P.; Recio, M. J.; Ferre. S. & Martínez-Laso, J. (1998): Phylogeny and rapid Northern and Southern Hemisphere speciation of goldfinches during the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 54(9): 1031–1041. PDF fulltext. Erratum, Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 55(1): 148. PDF fulltext
  • Arnaiz-Villena, A.; Guillén, J.; Ruiz-del-Valle, V.; Lowy, E.; Zamora, J.; Varela, P.; Stefani, D. & Allende, L. M. (2001): Phylogeography of crossbills, bullfinches, grosbeaks, and rosefinches. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 58: 1159–1166. PDF fulltext
  • Arnaiz-Villena, A., Moscoso, J., Ruiz-del-Valle, V., Gonzalez, J., Reguera, R., Ferri, A., Wink, M., Serrano-Vela, J. I. 2008. Mitochondrial DNA Phylogenetic Definition of a Group of ‘Arid-Zone’ Carduelini Finches. The Open Ornithology Journal, Volume 1: pp.1-7. (Free download available at
  • Arnaiz-Villena, A., Moscoso, J., Ruiz-del-Valle, V., Gonzalez, J., Reguera, R., Wink, M., I. Serrano-Vela, J. 2007. Bayesian phylogeny of Fringillinae birds: status of the singular African oriole finch Linurgus olivaceus and evolution and heterogeneity of the genus Carpodacus. Acta Zoologica Sinica, 53 (5):826 - 834. PDF fulltext
  • Clement, Peter; Harris, Alan & Davis, John (1993): Finches and Sparrows: an identification guide. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-8017-2
  • Groth, J. G. 1994. A mitochondrial cytochrome b phylogeny of cardueline finches. Journal für Ornithologie, 135: 31.
  • Groth, J. G. 1998. Molecular phylogeny of the cardueline finches and Hawaiian honeycreepers. Ostrich, 69: 401.
  • Groth, J (2000) "Molecular evidence for the systematic position of Urocynchramus pylzowi." Auk 117(3): 787-792.
  • Klicka, J., K.P. Johnson, and S.M. Lanyon. 2000. New World nine-primaried oscine relationships: Constructing a mitochondrial DNA framework. Auk 117:321-336.
  • Marten, Jill A. & Johnson, Ned K. (1986): Genetic relationships of North American cardueline finches. Condor 88(4): 409-420. PDF fulltext
  • Newton, Ian. (1973). "Finches". New Naturalist series. Taplinger Publishing (ISBN 0-8008-2720-1)
  • Ryan, P.G., Wright, D., Oatley, G., Wakeling, J., Cohen, C., Nowell, T.L., Bowie, R.C.K., Ward, V. & Crowe, T.M. 2004. Systematics of Serinus canaries and the status of Cape and Yellow-crowned Canaries inferred from mtDNA and morphology. Ostrich 75:288-294.
  • Yuri, T., and D. P. Mindell. 2002. Molecular phylogenetic analysis of Fringillidae, "New World nine-primaried oscines" (Aves: Passeriformes). Mol. Phylogen. Evol. 23:229-243.

External links

finch in Catalan: Fringillidae
finch in Welsh: Fringillidae
finch in Danish: Finker
finch in German: Finken
finch in Spanish: Fringillidae
finch in Esperanto: Fringedoj
finch in Persian: سهره
finch in French: Pinson
finch in Croatian: Zebe
finch in Ido: Finko
finch in Italian: Fringillidae
finch in Hebrew: פרושיים
finch in Lithuanian: Kikiliniai
finch in Hungarian: Pintyfélék
finch in Dutch: Vinkachtigen
finch in Japanese: アトリ科 (Sibley)
finch in Norwegian Nynorsk: Finkefamilien
finch in Polish: Łuszczaki
finch in Portuguese: Fringillidae
finch in Russian: Вьюрковые
finch in Slovenian: Ščinkavci
finch in Finnish: Peipot
finch in Swedish: Finkfåglar
finch in Turkish: Fringillidae
finch in Chinese: 雀科
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