Tufted Finches?

House finches are a relatively new yard bird in southern Alberta. Their inexorable colonization of the North American continent from both California and New York only brought them here within the last ten years or so.

I remember being very excited the first time I heard one of the brightly decorated red males singing his heart out in my poplar tree. Pretty soon I had half a dozen in the yard, then a dozen…  I stopped counting when I got to 23 at one go.

House finches are now a permanent part of my yard decorations, and I never tire of their singing. Each spring their numbers increase right along with my bird food bill. Now I have more house finches than I do house sparrows, but there’s no shortage of them either.

This year, however, I’m noticing something different. I have tufted finches. Or horned finches, if you prefer.


At first I chuckled over the sight of this little female with the funky head feathers. They reminded me of long, luscious eyelashes, and I had a mental image of her batting them at the males in a coquettish fashion.

Then I realized I had a great number of finches with tufts, and it wasn’t just one ‘well endowed’ female. I’ve seen four or five of them at a time at the feeder, all with the spunkly little tufts located in the same place on the head. I’m now thinking maybe they’re juveniles, not females.


As I’ve never noticed any tufted finches in my yard before, I’m looking for answers. Is this peculiar feather growth normal for juvenile finches? Not being a house finch expert, maybe I’ve never seen juveniles at this particular growth stage. I’m hoping the tufts are not a prelude to  losing all the feathers on their head, which the blue jays go through occasionally.


If anyone has any information on my tufted finches, please let me know in the comments. I’m not sure whether the number of tufted birds is increasing, or if I’m just noticing them more often, but they do seem to be on the increase at the feeders.

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24 Responses to Tufted Finches?

  1. dave barber says:

    Here in Canada we sure love those little birds….WAY TOO COOL

  2. Pat Bumstead says:

    It’s a juvenile finch thing! The little tufts disappear when they get older and then they look like all the other house finches in the flock.

  3. Henry Chavez says:

    A bit late jumping into this thread, but here in Houston, Texas I also just noticed these little beauties. The literature I’ve looked at does not account for the tufts and yours is the only place I have found them online. I wonder if it is a mutation of some sort. Surely, something is up.

  4. Dvae says:

    they’re a real delight to see arent they?

  5. John says:

    I live in Strathmore,Alberta,Canada.
    I had never seen any tufted finches until today. We have at least 4 different kinds of finches on our nyjer seed feeder at the same time.
    I find them to be very people friendly birds.

  6. dave says:

    I live in Ontario Canada,and have these little ones on my feeder .
    Did not know what they were for sure.Thanks for the info. Theye sure cute…Had a good laugh at the first one I saw…………

  7. Bashir El-Khalafawi says:

    I have seen this bird on my feeder on and off for the past 4 years, I thought it was just ruffled feathers

  8. Pat says:

    Thank you for the wonderful comment. These little guys sit at the feeder on my deck railing, and I know exactly what you mean by ‘beyond enchanting’ as they tilt their little heads and watch what you’re doing!

  9. Sharon says:

    I’m in North Carolina and house finches come and go at the feeder year round; right now a tufted fledgling seems to have permanently moved in. It just sits on the plate that catches the seed at the bottom part of the feeder and munches away. The feeder is right outside our kitchen window; when I talk to the little guy it tilts its head toward me and moves closer. Beyond enchanting – it is so lovely to have generations of birds flourishing right in our own front yard. Thank you so much for starting this thread almost a year ago and the wonderful pictures you included.

  10. Tommy says:

    I have been noticing for the last few days a new bird with these little hairy horns. Glad to find out what they are. This is a new for me in South Carolina.

  11. Pat says:

    Glad I could help. I’ve got horned finches in the yard again now. I’m trying not to take more pictures of them, but they’re just so darn cute!!

  12. Laurie Skog says:

    Noticed two of these little finches with their horns on our deck railing last week. We could not find any information anywhere either, but got your site from a birding friend of mine. Thanks a bunch.

  13. Pat says:

    Glad my article helped. I’ve since noticed I have tufted finches many times through the year – they obviously breed more than once up here in Canada. In California you should have tufted finches year round!

  14. jerry says:

    Thanks so much for this information. I just discovered my first tufted finch today, having had a finch feeder up for the first time about a month ago. It’s April, and I’m in southern California.

  15. Pat says:

    Glad you found my post useful. If you have ‘horned’ finches in Cranbrook now, I would guess they had more than one clutch this year. Wonder if they do that every year? Might explain their rapid colonization of North America!

  16. cathy pretty says:

    I just googled to try to identify my “horned finches”…and there you we’re…thankyou for the pictures. Mine are exactly the “same’. I agree, they are a house finch and they do beg for food with a continuous high pitch chirp, wings flapping and tail up. I am from Cranbrook British Columbia and the finches and pine siskens are here ALL the time. I love their singing in the Spring, as they start nesting early…March. Thanks again. I have one ” horned finch” outside my window NOW and it is Aug. 30th…seems like the birds should be “grown” by now unless they had a “later” batch…??

  17. Lucy & Jerry Miller says:

    Thanks for your pictures and answers!! We have been hunting for this bird’s id for a couple of weeks. We’re in the middle of Kansas.

  18. Jackie Norton says:

    I live on the central coast of Oregon and I have seen a half dozen of these birds at my feeders for the first time this year. I’ve had feeders up for eight years and have never noticed the “horns” before. I’ve been through all four of my bird books and could find no mention of these little tufts. I had no idea what they were until I started searching the Web and found this site. Thanks for the info.

  19. George and Nora Asteriadis says:

    We live in Michigan City, Indiana and recently have also noticed tufted finches as well! Thanks for the photos – we couldn’t find them in any of our bird books.

    7/5/10

  20. Pat says:

    I guess I picked the correct name for my blog post! I’ve been told these are juvenile finches, and will lose their tufts in a few weeks. I don’t understand why I never noticed them before, but now that I have, I’ll be keeping an eye on them. Thanks for commenting!

  21. Dorothy says:

    I just googled “tufted finches” because I just found one at my feeder. It looks exactly like the photos above. I live in Northwestern Michigan.

  22. Pat says:

    These birds are House Finches, and are found across North America.

  23. Elva Parkhurst says:

    I have this bird in Wisconsin also. This is the first year I have seen it. Is it a finch or is there another name for it?

  24. Bob says:

    I have seen these occasionally in my yard in Calgary in the spring/summer for several years now. I believe they are juvenile House Finches just fledged, although I’ve never read anything about this. If you watch them you might see them begging for food from an adult. You can also see a little bit of orange at the corner of their mouth where the bill isn’t fully developed yet. The tufts don’t last long, perhaps a week or so.

    Great shots!