Sometimes it is more enjoyable to bird watch in a diverse environment. Rhode Island is a state that celebrates all bird-watching styles, making it easy to spot up to 9 different finch species.
With regular access to sandy shores and gorgeous towns, birdwatchers of all tastes will be at home here. Finches are pretty diverse birds that tend to thrive no matter where they are, though they’ll still have preferences.
Want to ensure you don’t miss out on prime birdwatching opportunities? Our guide will break down 9 common and less common finch species by appearance, birdsong, and more.
- Species Name: Pheucticus ludovicianus
- Length: 18 cm to 22 cm
- Weight: 35 grams to 65 grams
- Wingspan: 29 cm to 33 cm
This tiny state isn’t short on visually stunning birds. The rose-breasted grosbeak makes it immediately apparent where it got its name.
The male rose-breasted grosbeak has a black body, white belly, and bold red throat. Its pale bill and round body only make it stand out more against its favorite trees.
The female rose-breasted grosbeak goes for simplicity with a brown body and white belly. They have a pink bill with dusty pink legs.
If you plan on visiting Rhode Island for some springtime fun, expect to see plenty of rose-breasted grosbeaks. They tend to move to southern parts of North America during the rest of the year.
These finches go wherever the wind takes them, whether it’s around Rhode Island’s sea level or further into forested areas. You can also find them in state parks and well-tended gardens.
Their diverse diet includes berries, insects, nectar, and seeds. They’re not about to miss out on a backyard bird feeding opportunity, but make sure to use the right feeder.
Since these finches have a lot of variety in weight and size, try filling a platform feeder with sunflower seeds.
These birds stun both visually and musically. Their beautiful song is a high, sweet warble with distinctive whistling notes.
These songbirds have a surprisingly long lifespan in captivity and are able to live up to twenty years old.
- Species Name: Spinus Pinus
- Length: 11 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 12 grams to 18 grams
- Wingspan: 18 cm to 22 cm
You’ll need to get extra sharp binoculars for these finches since pine siskins have a rather unique visual quirk…
The male pine siskin is a delicate bird with a yellow-brown body and black wing bars. They have thinner bills than many finches and a forked tail.
The female pine siskin looks nearly identical to the male! While they usually have less yellow, the difference is subtle enough to confuse many birders.
Pine siskins usually show up in Rhode Island in the summer, autumn, and winter months. However, they prefer to move further up north for the breeding season.
Their diverse range usually sees them in Rhode Island’s many bountiful forests. However, they also crop up in people’s gardens or backyards for an easy meal in winter.
These types of finches rely on seeds for their primary food source, though they eat the occasional insect or plant part. They’re more than happy to visit your backyard feeder as long as you use unshelled sunflower and nyjer seeds.
Unlike most finches, pine siskins have thinner bills that aren’t the best at cracking tough shells.
You definitely won’t overlook this birdcall – the pine siskin has an excitable sounding tzweee that rises in pitch. Since they like to eat food in flocks, you’ll hear quite a few of these buzzy calls!
Pine siskins are so sociable they’ll sometimes mingle with other finches, such as the American goldfinch.
- Species Name: Haemorhous purpureus
- Length: 12 cm to 16 cm
- Weight: 18 grams to 32 grams
- Wingspan: 22 cm to 26 cm
These lovely birds feel like a perfect representation of Rhode Island — tiny, yet brimming with personality.
The male purple finch isn’t plum or violet, but a raspberry red that stands out immediately. They have soft brown wings, a white rump, and a brownish bill.
The female purple finch is sparrow-like due to her brown plumage, but far more streaky. She has a white streak along her head and a brownish-pink bill.
This type of finch is easy to find since they’re a year-round species. While you won’t usually see them in big cities, they frequently visit backyards, gardens, and parks.
These ground-feeding birds regularly forage for berries, seeds, and the occasional insect. Attract these colorful finches to your backyard feeder with black oil sunflower seeds or millet.
If you’re a fan of exterior design, you can also plant a few conifer trees to create a new home for them. The lives of birds are even more enjoyable to watch when they stick around for months on end!
The purple finch has one of the most delicate calls in the finch family, letting loose sweet warbles with long pauses in between.
This bird was originally referred to as the ‘chia seed bird’.
- Species Name: Spinus tristis
- Length: 11 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 11 grams to 20 grams
- Wingspan: 19 cm to 22 cm
A popular species for bird watchers is the ever-charming American goldfinch. These beautiful birds show up year-round in Rhode Island and suit many bird-watching styles.
The male American goldfinch has a bright yellow body, black wings, and white wing bars. The little black patch on their head contrasts wonderfully with their pink-orange conical beak.
The plumage of goldfinches is also incredibly dynamic. Breeding males look brighter in the spring and softer the rest of the year.
The female American goldfinch looks rather similar but with a soft yellow olive and no black head patch.
These finches regularly show up in wide, open spaces with plenty of weeds. Expect to see flocks of these sociable birds in spacious gardens, weedy fields, and forest edges.
These species are also widespread backyard birds, a major reason why they’re one of the most recognizable finch species.
These beautiful finches constantly forage for alder, sunflower, and dandelion seeds. Once in a while, they’ll try a little nectar or tree sap.
These birds love to show up at feeders with their friends, but be mindful that they’re one of the smallest finches. Larger bully birds will easily overpower them, so try using thistle feeders meant for smaller species.
Another reason the American goldfinch is so popular is because of its happy, complex birdcall. Expect to hear sharp, high chweet-chweet-chweets mixed with a warbled song.
Think the American goldfinch is small? They lay eggs as tiny as a peanut.
- Species Name: Loxia curvirostra
- Length: 14 cm to 17 cm
- Weight: 40 grams
- Wingspan: 25 to 27 cm
These birds have one of the most interesting beaks – not just for finches, but birds in general!
The red crossbill earned its name thanks to its uniquely crossed beak. Males have a red or orange-red body with dark brown wings and white wing bars.
Female red crossbills lean toward the gray end of the spectrum. They usually have a hint of yellow or yellow-orange on their back and stomach.
These finches show up most of the year in Rhode Island but get some wanderlust once the winter months arrive. Expect to see them hard at work in coniferous forests searching for food.
Since their beak is uniquely designed to eat from pinecones, seeds are their favorite foods. You can attract them to your backyard with fresh sunflower seeds.
These finches have a rather enjoyable song – they emit metallic and whistling notes like chee-er chee-er chee. You’ll also hear a few whistles and trills.
This bird goes by two names – the red crossbill in the United States and the common crossbill in Europe.
- Species Name: Loxia leucoptera
- Length: 15 cm to 17 cm
- Weight: 24 grams to 26 grams
- Wingspan: 26 cm to 28 cm
Visually similar to the red crossbill, the white-winged crossbill is a little rarer in Rhode Island.
The male white-winged crossbill has a bright red body, brown wings, and white wing bars. They’re distinctive from red crossbills due to their bright plumage and slightly smaller size.
The female white-winged crossbill is easier to distinguish from female red crossbills. They’re more gray overall with only a little yellow on their chest.
Do you like to go on long, peaceful walks in the forest? You might spot a few of these finches in their favorite habitat – coniferous forests with plenty of food.
These birds spend much of their time digging into tamarack and hemlock seeds. You may be able to invite a few to your bird feeders with sunflower seeds (especially the hulled variety).
These birds have one of the most intense and rapid-fire songs among finches. Expect to hear bursts of chr-chr-chrs one after the other, sprinkler-style.
Interestingly enough, white-winged crossbills can breed nearly any time of the year.
- Species Name: Hesperiphona vespertina
- Length: 16 cm to 22 cm
- Weight: 38 grams to 68 grams
- Wingspan: 30 cm to 36 cm
This bird may appear similar to an American goldfinch at first but look a little more closely. These finches are much larger and have more dramatic coloration.
The male evening grosbeak has a deep yellow body with black and white wings. They have a pale bill and a rather dramatic yellow ‘eyebrow’.
The female evening grosbeak has a light gray body with black and white wings. She usually has a little yellow dusting on her neck.
These stocky birds are a little more common in Rhode Island in the warmer months but tend to wander during winter. Expect to see them in coniferous forests or foraging about on the ground in search of food.
The evening grosbeak’s varied diet includes insects, berries, and seeds. They’ll even munch on a little gravel if that means getting nutritious salt.
Sunflower seeds are their favorite backyard feeder bird snack.
These birds have simple calls, letting out isolated chirps and cheets with long pauses.
These birds are a little larger than most finches, so they don’t do well with tube feeders. Try using a platform feeder to make them feel at home in your backyard.
- Species Name: Acanthis flammea
- Length: 12 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 11 grams to 20 grams
- Wingspan: 19 cm to 22 cm
This finch combines the homeliness of songbirds with a little extra style. It’s the kind of bird that makes you do a double-take while out on a nice stroll.
The male common redpoll is sparrow-like in appearance, but look closely! Alongside the classic yellow conical bill is a red forehead spot and a blushing chest.
The female common redpoll looks quite similar but without the pink chest.
This finch enjoys boreal forests where they can eat, play, and mate. They usually show up during Rhode Island’s frigid winters.
The common redpolls frequently eat seeds, scouring birch and alder trees all day long until they’re full. Since their beaks are on the smaller side, they have a harder time eating larger seeds.
As such, take care to stock up on smaller varieties such as sunflower and thistle seeds.
Their musical chattering calls have a playful, jaunty melody composed of cheet-cheet-cheets, trills, and chirps.
This finch has many subspecies for the bookish bird watcher. There’s the Icelandic redpoll, Greenland redpoll, and mealy redpoll.
- Species Name: Haemorhous mexicanus
- Length: 13 cm to 14 cm
- Weight: 16 grams to 27 grams
- Wingspan: 20 cm to 25 cm
Are you a birdwatcher who enjoys suburban locations? House finches are a sociable, widespread bird that’ll crop up in many of Rhode Island’s cities and towns.
The male house finch is sleek, boasting a rosy head with a brown body. They have quite a few streaks along their belly and tail.
The female house finch lacks the red color, covered in light brown with streaks of white and gray.
You won’t have to time your visit or choose a particular season – house finches show up in Rhode Island year-round. They’re quite a common sight in backyards, parks, and various populated areas.
House finches frequently dive in and out of grass to get delicious weeds such as dandelions and nettles. However, they also eat quite a few berries and insects to round out their diet.
You’ll easily attract these adaptable birds with fresh sunflower seeds. While they can be a little pesky in orchards, they don’t usually eat enough fruit to cause problems.
I just love this bird’s sweet, whistling song. Expect to hear a musical warble interspersed with brief, sharp trills.
The brown-headed cowbird is a species that sometimes plants its eggs in the nests of house finches. However, their incompatible diets mean the babies don’t usually survive.
Rhode Island Is Incredibly Hospitable to Finch Species
Rhode Island is quite the sight for humans and birds alike. What finch wouldn’t love regular access to forests, the ocean, and bustling small towns?
Since most of these finches are year-round, you don’t have to plan a particular time to see several species. However, winter is a prime choice to see just about all of them.
There are plenty more species to discover in the Ocean State. Check out our guide on Rhode Island birds to beef up your birdspotting list!