Photo: Arthur Morris/Vireo

Cassin's Finch

Haemorhous cassinii

Like a slightly larger, longer-billed version of the Purple Finch, Cassin's Finch is a resident of mountains and conifer forests of the West. It is sometimes found at very high elevations, in the scrubby forest just below treeline, especially in late summer. At other times, little roving flocks wander through the woods, often feeding on buds and seeds high in the trees. The complicated song of the male often includes brief imitations of other birds.
Conservation status Common and widespread, but surveys suggest declining populations in recent decades.
Family Finches
Habitat Conifers in high mountains; lower levels in winter. Breeds mostly in mountain forests of conifers, especially spruce and fir, also in pine and Douglas-fir in some areas and sometimes in pinyon-juniper woods. Often at very high elevations, near treeline in mountains. Winters in mountain forests of conifers, sometimes in open woods of lower valleys.
Like a slightly larger, longer-billed version of the Purple Finch, Cassin's Finch is a resident of mountains and conifer forests of the West. It is sometimes found at very high elevations, in the scrubby forest just below treeline, especially in late summer. At other times, little roving flocks wander through the woods, often feeding on buds and seeds high in the trees. The complicated song of the male often includes brief imitations of other birds.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • adult male
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Does much foraging up in trees, especially when ground is snow-covered; also feeds in weedy growth and on ground. Except when nesting, often forages in small flocks.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Bluish green, with brown and black spots often concentrated at larger end. Incubation is by female only, about 12-14 days. Male often feeds female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching, and parents and young may promptly leave nesting area.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching, and parents and young may promptly leave nesting area.

Diet

Mostly seeds, buds, berries. Feeds mainly on vegetable material. Buds of various trees often staple items in diet, also eats seeds of many trees (especially conifers) and some weed seeds. Feeds on berries and small fruits when available. Also eats some insects, perhaps mainly in summer.


Nesting

Numbers breeding in an area often change from one year to the next, possibly in response to food supplies. May nest in small colonies. Male often does not defend much of a nesting territory, instead simply staying close to female and driving away rival males. Nest: Usually placed in large conifer, commonly about 30-40' above ground, may be as low as 10' or as high as 80' up; sometimes in aspen or other deciduous tree. Nest (probably built by female) is open cup made of twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with fine grass, plant fibers, animal hair, sometimes decorated with lichens.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Somewhat nomadic, with numbers present in a given locality often changing from year to year. Irregular in winter occurrence in lowlands, but sometimes wanders well out onto plains.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Somewhat nomadic, with numbers present in a given locality often changing from year to year. Irregular in winter occurrence in lowlands, but sometimes wanders well out onto plains.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song is a series of warbles, similar to the Purple Finch's but flutier and more varied. Call note, a high pwee-de-lip, is diagnostic.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Cassin's Finch

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
Zoom InOut

Explore Similar Birds