The Nutmeg State’s avian mascot is the American robin. This beautiful bird with an enchanting contrast of russet at its breast and its dark upper surface is also incidentally the nation’s most populous. No relation to its European namesake, which is a flycatcher, it is part frugivore and rather fond of helping itself to ripening fruits in orchards — a habit which has earned it the ire of farmers.
Connecticut is also home to the red-headed woodpecker renowned for its ability to maintain secret caches and maintain a full belly all year long.
These colorful and impressive birds are just a few of Connecticut’s 451 bird species. Included in that rather impressive list are its 11 finch species which are covered here in succinct, yet informative, detail.
- Scientific Name: Fringilla montifringilla
- Length: 6 inches
- Weight: 0.8 – 1.02 ounces
- Wingspan: 10 inches
Often mistaken for chaffinches, bramblings are covered in plumage which is dark at the head, orange at the breast, and white at the undersurface. Their wings exhibit a barred pattern with hints of white and orange but are predominantly black. Both genders are pretty similar in color and pattern. However, males are more vividly colored.
Bramblings mostly breed in northern Europe, flying southwards during winter. Occasionally, they may make the crossing into Alaska. Because Connecticut is not part of their usual range, they are rarely found in the state.
- Scientific Name: Spinus tristis
- Length: 5.5 inches
- Weight: 0.4 – 0.7 ounces
- Wingspan: 8 – 9 inches
American goldfinches get to swap one set of colors for another depending on what time of the year it is. Their breeding season colors are golden in males, which also sport a black forehead patch and black wings patterned with white wing bars. In females, it is a pale yellowish brown.
With the arrival of winter that glorious summery plumage is exchanged for a rather modest olive; females also assume the same color in a duller hue.
American goldfinches are rather nimble feeders that are fond of buds, bark, sap, and small seeds. They are also known to feed their young regurgitated seeds. It is a habit that spells bad news for cowbirds, which engage in brood parasitism since their young require proteinous fare to survive.
These gregarious passerines prefer partially open areas and are equally at home in the wild and in urban areas. They breed in Canada, eastern Idaho, and northwestern Montana. They can be found in Connecticut all year round throughout the state. They however only fly to the southernmost states, i.e., from Arizona to Georgia, during winter.
- Scientific Name: Hesperiphona vespertina
- Length: 6 – 9 inches
- Weight: 1.4 – 3 ounces
- Wingspan: 12 – 14 inches
Compared to most passerines, evening grosbeaks are pretty large. Males are also pretty hard to miss with that bold coloring which is a blend of dark brown at the head with a yellow band above the eyes, and yellowish brown at the torso. Their wings in white, thickly bordered with black, complete the ensemble.
Females are a more sedate gray with yellow about the neck.
Courtship is a rather elaborate affair with the male treating the female to a dance performance and gifts of food. The female goes on to build the nest from twigs and grass and broods her newly hatched chicks. Both she and her mate then share responsibility for feeding their hatchlings, which leave after a fortnight.
Evening grosbeaks visit Connecticut’s extreme northwest in winter. They can however be found all year round in southern Canada as well as the northern regions of Maine and Wisconsin. These large passerines can also be found in a similar capacity in Washington, northern and eastern Idaho, and western Montana and Wyoming.
- Scientific Name: Pinicola enucleator
- Length: 9 inches
- Weight: 2 – 3 ounces
- Wingspan: 13 inches
Pine grosbeaks are known for their ability to remain surprisingly calm when approached by humans and their rather sedate pace of foraging. Males of the species are red with dark beaks while females are a soft gray, with olive heads and rumps. They also share the same large dark beaks as their male counterparts which are especially useful for cracking seed kernels open.
Both genders also have black wing feathers which lighten at their edges and tips creating a beautiful contrast.
As is the case with evening grosbeaks, male pine grosbeaks offer females gifts of food to declare their intentions. They continue to bring them food while they incubate their eggs and when the hatchlings arrive, both parents feed their new charges.
Unlike evening grosbeaks which may have two broods per year, pine grosbeaks have only one (females lay around 4 speckled blue-green eggs).
Pine grosbeaks may visit Connecticut during winter and may be found throughout the state. The southernmost point of their winter range lies at Lake Erie’s southern tip.
These finches are found in Alaska and Canada all year round. They are also found in the western part of the contiguous United States.
- Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
- Length: 5 – 6 inches
- Weight: 0.6 – 0.9 ounces
- Wingspan: 8 – 10 inches
House finches can be identified by the presence of a vivid red on their heads and breasts if they are male. Occasionally, that red which stands out against their brown plumage might be orange or yellow. Female house finches, however, strongly prefer males which sport a dash of crimson compared to the other two hues (males obtain the pigment from their food). Females lack that red coloring and both genders are generally brown with striations at the chest.
The male courts the female offering her gifts of food. If all goes as planned they will both build a nest — with the female handling the larger share of building duties.
She will also eventually lay between 2 to 6 pale blue speckled eggs. While brooding, her mate will feed her too.
However, in time both parents will feed their charges with regurgitated seeds.
House finches may produce up to 3 broods annually.
They can be found throughout Connecticut all year round. They can also be found throughout the nation in the same capacity.
- Scientific Name: Haemorhous purpureus
- Length: 4.7 – 6.3 inches
- Weight: 0.63 – 1.10 ounces
- Wingspan: 10 inches
Purple finches are often mistaken for house finches, which they bear a close resemblance to. However, these two rosefinch species can be differentiated by the bolder striations in a darker brown in the case of purple finch females.
Coloring can also be used to tell males apart: male purple finches have a raspberry red hue compared to the brick red, orange, or yellow of house finches.
Males perform an elaborate dance for females which subsequently go on to lay 3 to 6 eggs in a pale green-blue with dark markings.
Both parents feed the young once they hatch. The species generally broods once a year, unlike house finches which do so thrice.
Purple finches can be found all year round throughout Connecticut. They are also found in the same capacity in its neighboring states including Rhodes Island, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine.
They are also found all year round along the Pacific Coast where they are believed to brood twice a year.
- Scientific Name: Acanthis flammea
- Length: 4.5 – 5.5 inches
- Weight: 1.12 ounces
- Wingspan: 8 – 9 inches
These little hardy finches can be recognized by the presence of a dark crimson patch on their foreheads. Their heads, mantles, and wings are heavily striated, while their chests and flanks are more sparsely striped. They may also have a flush of pink on their breast.
These winter finches are gregarious and restless by nature. Their throat pouches make it easy for them to store food and digest it in a comfy location.
Female common redpolls are believed to be the more proactive party during courtship. They lay about 5 blue-green eggs (speckled with red) on average. Although the male feeds his mate while she incubates the eggs, the mother common redpoll shoulders the bulk of the responsibility for feeding their hatchlings.
Common redpolls may visit Connecticut during winter and may be found all over the state. However, such occurrences are by no means frequent. These winter finches tend to winter in Canada, with North Dakota and Minnesota’s northernmost regions comprising the southernmost limit of that range.
- Scientific Name: Acanthis hornemanni
- Length: 5 – 5.5 inches
- Weight: 0.40 – 0.50 ounces
- Wingspan: 8 – 10 inches
These tubby little finches closely resemble their common redpoll cousins. They share the same dark red forehead patch, the same form, and the same coloring and pattern at the wings, and nape. However, hoary redpolls are paler and more sparsely striated compared to common redpolls.
Males woo females by providing food for them, and the female builds a nest in close proximity to her other similarly nesting relatives. The little nest may be placed on the ground or close to it and is woven from grass, leaves, and small roots.
At the end of a fortnight, she will lay about four eggs (six at the most) which are blue-green, speckled with dark brown spots at their larger, rounded ends.
Both parents are believed to handle feeding duties. After about two weeks, their young leave the nest.
Hoary redpolls are rare winter visitors to Connecticut and may be found throughout the state. However, their usual wintering range lies to the far north and includes Alaska as well as central and northern Canada.
- Scientific Name: Spinus pinus
- Length: 4 – 5.5 inches
- Weight: 0.40 – 0.60 ounces
- Wingspan: 7 – 9 inches
Pine siskins are a blend of differing shades of striated brown, with hints of yellow at their wings and tails. The striations at their heads and mantles are denser compared to those at their chests and flanks which stand out against a paler background.
These passerines breed in southern Alaska and Canada. Male pine siskins declare their interest in their female counterparts by serenading them while flying over them. They also present them with gifts of food. The female builds a nest with bark, roots, and twigs, lining it with moss, fur, and feathers. She lays 3 to 5 blue-green eggs with dark specks and incubates them. She and her mate feed the new hatchlings which fly the nest after half a month.
In winter pine siskins head south in the company of American goldfinches seeking out bird feeders filled with their favorite seeds.
They generally winter throughout the United States and can be found all over Connecticut during the colder months.
- Scientific Name: Loxia curvirostra
- Length: 7.5 inches
- Weight: 2 ounces
- Wingspan: 12 inches
This species is known for having varying degrees of copper in the plumage of males, while females can be recognized by their olive-colored plumage. Both genders have dark wing feathers which pale at their edges creating a contrasting effect. They also possess dark crossed beaks which they use to open their favorite cones during mealtimes.
These cross-beaked finches tend to time their nesting season to coincide with the abundance of cones. The male is believed to declare his intentions to the female by serenading her and dancing for her.
The prospective mother builds a rather bulky nest from twigs, grass, and bark in a conifer, high above the ground, lining it with lichen and fur.
At last, the female lays about 4 eggs (she may lay as few as 2 or as many as 5) which are white with a slight blue or green tint, and incubates them. Throughout the incubating and brooding process, her mate feeds her. She joins him to feed their hatchlings. At around 3 weeks their young, which they have devotedly cared for, fly the nest.
These large finches spend most of their time in Canada and the Western United States. They are also found in the eastern United States in western North Carolina and Virginia.
On rare occasions, they may elect to visit North America during winter, in which case they will be found throughout Connecticut.
- Scientific Name: Loxia leucoptera
- Length: 5.7 – 6.7 inches
- Weight: 0.9 – 1.40 ounces
- Wingspan: 11 inches
Named for the prominent white markings on their wings, this species is covered in plumage which is red in males and gray and bronze in females.
As is the case with red crossbills, white-winged crossbills also have overlapping mandibles with which they open cones with ease.
Male members of the species pursue females they are interested in. When they are perched close to each other, at last, they touch their beaks.
The female builds the nest with a little help from her mate. Using twigs, bark, and grass she creates an open structure and lines it with lichen, moss, and fur.
She lays a minimum of 2 eggs and a maximum of 4. On rare occasions, she may lay five. White-winged crossbill eggs are pale blue speckled with brown towards their rounded ends.
The female incubates the eggs and broods her hatchlings with her mate feeding her while she does so. After a while, she assists him with feeding duties.
White-winged crossbills may visit Connecticut during winter although their pattern of doing so may be unpredictable.
Connecticut’s unique position rather close to Canada means it falls (partially or completely ) within the winter range of species such as the evening grosbeak.
Other species which visit during the colder months include the pine siskin
While the state cannot lay claim to as many finch species as Utah, for example, the fact that it hosts 11 species is pretty impressive. Especially since it is home to the enchanting American goldfinch admired for the beauty of the male bird’s plumage all year long as well as the house finch and the purple finch.