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Canary vs Finch: How to Tell the Difference?

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Canary vs Finch

If you want to know more, we’ve set up a few key points and images that can give you a better grasp of which is which, so you can confidently identify them on the spot. But let’s not wait any longer—read below to get started!

Visual Differences

canary vs finch
Image Credit: (L) Yulia 0606, Shutterstock | (R) George, Pixabay

At a Glance

Canary
  • Origin: Macaronesian/Canary Islands
  • Size: 3.9 to 4.7 in.
  • Lifespan: 10 to 15 years
  • Domesticated: Yes
Finch
  • Origin: Various locations
  • Size: 3 to 10 in.
  • Lifespan: 5 to 20 years
  • Domesticated: Yes

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Canary Overview

canary bird
Image Credit: George, Pixabay

Characteristics and Appearance

Canaries are a type of small bird with bright color patterns such as red, orange, or yellow. Male canaries are beloved for their singing capabilities, as they have been bred for hundreds of years because of this trait. However, despite their domestication, they don’t exactly have a strong bond with humans. Canaries are rather shy, but they are also somewhat territorial. Additionally, canaries aren’t the most social birds, but tend to forage for food with others. This small bird loves to eat a diet of seeds and ground-level vegetation. A canary typically stakes out its home in a short tree or bushes to nest its young.

canary bird perching
Image Credit: Piqsels

Regions and Migration

Named after the Canary Islands (part of the larger Macaronesian Islands), this species originated just off the west coast of Africa in close proximity to Spain and Portugal. The canary’s royal treatment has made its range span much farther than its native habitat, as it’s been found in plenty of locations. North America is no exception to this statement, with much of the canary’s prominence moving over to other island-dense locals such as the Caribbean and even as far as Hawaii. They don’t exactly migrate due to this lifestyle.

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Finch Overview

american goldfinch bird perching
Image Credit: Natalia Kuzmina, Shutterstock

Characteristics and Appearance

Similar to canaries, finches are relatively small and come in a variety of colors. This group of birds comes in many styles and their appearance differs based on which location you find them in. Finches have a tendency to eat mainly seeds and nuts, but they provide their young with insects as they can’t break the hard husks. As does the canary, the finch is an exceptional vocalist. Their singing capabilities have also made them highly valuable among birdwatchers and bird owners.

Regions and Migration

Finches are found continentally in North and South America. Depending on which specific subspecies, a finch may live year-round in the same location. On the other hand, many types of finches also migrate down to more suitable regions when winter comes around. For example, the classic goldfinch is an all-year resident with most of its range, but you’ll find them more common down south when the cold sets in. The finch also has a wide variety of habitats, as you’ll come across them in both urban and rural areas, whether in a city park or in countryside pastures.

pair of house finch bird perching
Image Credit: Chris Chaney, Shutterstock

hummingbird divider What Are the Differences Between Canaries and Finches?

The differences between canaries and finches are mostly in their location. Finches are primarily found throughout all land areas, especially in the Americas, whereas the canary typically stays secluded on oceanic islands. This is in part the reason why they have been generationally sought after; their exotic nature makes them a prize for many.

Other than that, their names have separate origins, but that’s about it!

Final Thoughts

Canaries and finches have many similarities, but their differences are apparent when you look at the details. In a way, canaries are essentially a type of finch that lives on an island. Most of their characteristics are indistinguishable, so it’s more important to know about the location. We hope this guide gave you some insight so you don’t have to second-guess whether you’ve got your eye on a finch or canary. Happy birding!


Featured Image Credit: (L) John A. Anderson, Shutterstock (R) Veronika_Andrews, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.