In Illinois, it is possible to spot 4 different species of Finches. These are:
- American Goldfinch
- House Finch
- Purple Finch
- Pine Siskin
Want to learn more? This book on everything to do with Finches is a fantastic read!
For some, Illinois conjures images of windy lakefronts and pine forests that stretch all the way into Canada, for others, Chicago comes to mind, with its towering skyscrapers and endless concrete.
Both are true enough, and so is “The Prairie State’s” nickname, as there are also vast grasslands, dense forests, and wetlands for foraging birds like finches to inhabit.
Below, we list these flamboyant and sociable finches found throughout Illinois, and how you can spot one.
Want to attract finches? Take a look at our article!
What Finches can be seen in Illinois?
1. American Goldfinch
As its breeding population spreads southward from Canada into middle America, many American goldfinches settle throughout Illinois year-round.
They are most concentrated near open meadows near deciduous forest where they like to gather and forage, but they are as domesticated a bird as any you’ll find in nature, visiting bird feeders often.
Goldfinches are recognized by their bright yellow body and head, with sharply contrasting black-and-white wings and black mask. Interestingly, male finches will fade from their radiant lemon-yellow to a dull brownish-yellow when they’re not mating, making them look closer to how the females look all the time.
They are active foragers, venturing from the nest to hop from tree to tree or along the ground looking for seed.
Goldfinches will occasionally group with their similar-looking kin, Pine Siskins, for strength in numbers while foraging.
Popular throughout the US, the house finch has the same year-round presence in Illinois despite the lack of breeding grounds nearby.
This is because house finches were once domestic imports kept as pets – a practice which has since been banned in the U.S. You can recognize house finches by the splash of bright rost on the face and neck, contrasted against subdued browns and grays on the wings and back and white bellies.
They like to hang out near the edges of forests like most birds, except house finches care less if the forest edge is by a secluded meadow or someone’s home.
They can be lured to bird feeders with sunflower seeds and the like, and will make return visits if the stores remain stocked.
Their migrations tend to move from the highlands to the lowlands in the winter, rather than moving out of state.
3. Pruple Finch
Like many northern birds, this finch breeds heavily in Canada and flies south when the food becomes scarce. “South” in this case is states like Minnesota and Illinois in the northern US, where they maintain a consistent winter presence, though competition with other small feeder birds may have driven them into the tall trees instead of backyards.
The purple finch is really closer to the bright rose on its face, chest, crown, and upper back, blending into the browns and/or grays of its tail and wings.
They can be found rummaging around in low weeds and bushes, though you are just as likely to see them on the high branches.
4. Pine Siskin
This diminutive arctic flyer maintains a consistent winter presence in Illinois, flying south from its comfort zone at the northern tip of Canada to escape winter scarcity.
They can be spotted easily in the snow with their radiant black and yellow coloring about the wings, though their brown and white bodies make them a bit harder to spot among the trees.
Siskins can be attracted to backyard feeders with sunflower seeds, and they’ll use any foraging ground at their disposal–including campsites, backyards, tree lots, and ponds–so long as it remains relatively undisturbed.
Mostly, they’ll just pop out of pine treelines in the cold season, but this is more preference than dedicated instinct, as they will also hang in deciduous forests if the pickings are plentiful.
We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!