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Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Cladus: Crurotarsi
Divisio: Archosauria
Subsectio: Ornithodira
Subtaxon: Dinosauromorpha
Cladus: Dinosauria
Ordo: Saurischia
Cladus: Theropoda
Cladus: Neotheropoda
Infraclassis: Aves
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Passeri
Infraordo: Passerida
Superfamilia: Passeroidea

Familia: Fringillidae
Subfamiliae (3): Carduelinae - Euphoniinae - Fringillinae
[source: Zuccon et al. (2012)]
Overview of genera (48 + 7†)

AcanthisAgraphospizaBucanetesCallacanthisCarduelisCarpodacusChlorisChlorophoniaChrysocorythusCoccothraustesCrithagraEophonaEuphoniaFringillaHaemorhousHemignathusHesperiphonaHimationeLeucosticteLinariaLinurgusLoxiaLoxioidesLoxopsMagummaMelamprosopsMycerobasNeospizaOreomystisPalmeriaParoreomyzaPinicolaProcarduelisPseudonestorPsittirostraPyrrhoplectesPyrrhulaRhodopechysRhodospizaRhynchostruthusSerinusSpinusTelespizaVestiaria – †Akialoa – †Chloridops – †Ciridops – †Drepanis – †Dysmorodrepanis – †Rhodacanthis


Fringillidae Leach, 1819


Fringilla Linnaeus, 1758

Primary references

Leach, W.E. 1819. Synopsis of the Contents of the British Museum: Eleventh Room. British Museum. London. 15th edition: 63–68. (Although the name of the author is not specified in the document, Leach was the Keeper of Zoology at the time). First citation p.65.


Zuccon, D., Prŷs-Jones, R., Rasmussen, P.C., & Ericson, P.G.P. 2012. The phylogenetic relationships and generic limits of finches (Fringillidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 62 (2): 581–596. Full text (PDF). DOI: .1016/j.ympev.2011.10.002 Reference page.

Vernacular names
العربية: الشراشير الحقيقيَّة
беларуская: Уюрковыя
dansk: Finker
Deutsch: Finken
Ελληνικά: Σπίνοι
English: Finches
Nordfriisk: Finken
hrvatski: Zebe
հայերեն: Սերինոսներ
日本語: アトリ科
한국어: 되새과
македонски: Ѕвингалки
polski: Łuszczaki
svenska: Finkfågler
Türkçe: İspinozgiller

The true finches are small to medium-sized passerine birds in the family Fringillidae. Finches have stout conical bills adapted for eating seeds and nuts and often have colourful plumage. They occupy a great range of habitats where they are usually resident and do not migrate. They have a worldwide distribution except for Australia and the polar regions. The family Fringillidae contains more than two hundred species divided into fifty genera. It includes species known as siskins, canaries, redpolls, serins, grosbeaks and euphonias.

Many birds in other families are also commonly called "finches". These groups include: the estrildid finches (Estrildidae) of the Old World tropics and Australia; some members of the Old World bunting family (Emberizidae) and the New World sparrow family (Passerellidae); and the Darwin's finches of the Galapagos islands, now considered members of the tanager family (Thraupidae).[1]

Finches and canaries were used in the UK, US and Canada in the coal mining industry to detect carbon monoxide from the eighteenth to twentieth century. This practice ceased in the UK in 1986.[2]

Systematics and taxonomy

The taxonomy of the finch family, in particular the cardueline finches, has a long and complicated history. The study of the relationship between the taxa has been confounded by the recurrence of similar morphologies due to the convergence of species occupying similar niches.[3] In 1968 the American ornithologist Raymond Andrew Paynter, Jr. wrote:

Limits of the genera and relationships among the species are less understood – and subject to more controversy – in the carduelines than in any other species of passerines, with the possible exception of the estrildines [waxbills].[4]

Beginning in around 1990 a series of phylogenetic studies based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences resulted in substantial revisions being made to the taxonomy. Several groups of birds that had previously been assigned to other families were found to be related to the finches. The Neotropical Euphonia and the Chlorophonia were formerly placed in the tanager family Thraupidae due to their similar appearance but analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences revealed that both genera were more closely related to the finches. They are now placed in a separate subfamily Euphoniinae within the Fringillidae.[5][6] The Hawaiian honeycreepers were at one time placed in their own family, Drepanididae but were found to be closely related to the Carpodacus rosefinches and are now placed within the Carduelinae subfamily.[3] The three largest genera, Carpodacus, Carduelis and Serinus were found to be polyphyletic.[3][7][8] Each was split into monophyletic genera. The American rosefinches were moved from Carpodacus to Haemorhous. Carduelis was split by moving the greenfinches to Chloris and a large clade into Spinus leaving just three species in the original genus. Thirty seven species were moved from Serinus to Crithagra leaving eight species in the original genus.[6] Today the family Fringillidae is divided into three subfamilies, the Fringillinae containing a single genus with the chaffinches, the Carduelinae containing 183 species divided into 49 genera, and the Euphoniinae containing the Euphonia and the Chlorophonia.[3]
Euphonias, like this thick-billed euphonia, were once treated as tanagers instead of finches.

Although Przewalski's "rosefinch" (Urocynchramus pylzowi) has ten primary flight feathers rather than the nine primaries of other finches, it was sometimes classified in the Carduelinae. It is now assigned to a distinct family, Urocynchramidae, monotypic as to genus and species, and with no particularly close relatives among the Passeroidea.[6][9]
Finch phylogeny


Fringilla chaffinches


Chlorophonia, chlorophonias and some euphonias

Euphonia true euphonias


Mycerobas Asian grosbeaks

Hesperiphona American grosbeaks

Coccothraustes hawfinch

Eophona Oriental grosbeaks

Carpodacus Eurasian rosefinches


Melamprosops the extinct poʻouli

Paroreomyza ʻalauahios and the extinct kākāwahie


Oreomystis ʻakikiki

Loxioides palila


Rhodacanthis the extinct koa-finches


Chloridops the extinct Hawaiian grosbeaks

Telespiza Laysan & Nihoa finches


Psittirostra the possibly extinct ʻōʻū

Dysmorodrepanis the extinct Lanai hookbill

Ciridops the extinct ʻula-ʻai-hāwane

Drepanis ʻiʻiwi and the extinct mamos

Palmeria ʻākohekohe

Himatione ʻapapane and the extinct Laysan honeycreeper

Hemignathus ʻakiapōlāʻau and the possibly extinct nukupuʻus


Akialoa the extinct ʻakialoas

Pseudonestor Maui parrotbill or kiwikiu


Viridonia the extinct greater ʻamakihi (could fall anywhere within this clade)

Magumma ʻanianiau

Loxops 'akepas, ʻakekeʻe, and ʻalawī

Chlorodrepanis lesser ʻamakihis


Pinicola pine grosbeak

Pyrrhula bullfinches

Rhodopechys crimson-winged finches

Bucanetes trumpeter and Mongolian finch

Agraphospiza Blanford's rosefinch

Callacanthis spectacled finch

Pyrrhoplectes golden-naped finch

Procarduelis dark-breasted rosefinch

Leucosticte mountain finches

Haemorhous North American rosefinches

Rhodospiza desert finch

Rhynchostruthus golden-winged grosbeaks

Chloris greenfinches

Linurgus oriole finch

Crithagra African canaries, serins and siskins

Linaria twite and linnets

Acanthis redpolls

Loxia crossbills

Chrysocorythus mountain serin

Carduelis European goldfinch etc

Serinus European serin, Atlantic canary, etc

Spinus American siskins & goldfinches, Eurasian siskin and Tibetan serin

Cladogram based on the analysis by Zuccon and colleagues published in 2012,[3] Hawaiian honeycreeper phylogeny based on Lerner and colleagues, 2011[10] and Pratt (2014).[11] Genera or clades with question marks (?) are of controversial or uncertain taxonomic placement. The rosefinches genus Carpodacus is expanded to include the common rosefinch as suggested by Tietze and colleagues[12] and adopted by the International Ornithological Committee.[6]
Fossil record

Fossil remains of true finches are rare, and those that are known can mostly be assigned to extant genera at least. Like the other Passeroidea families, the true finches seem to be of roughly Middle Miocene origin, around 20 to 10 million years ago (Ma). An unidentifable finch fossil from the Messinian age, around 12 to 7.3 million years ago (Ma) during the Late Miocene subepoch, has been found at Polgárdi in Hungary.[13][14][15]

The scientific name Fringillidae comes from the Latin word fringilla for the common chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), a member of the family which is common in Europe. The name was coined (as Fringilladæ) by the English zoologist William Elford Leach in a guide to the contents of the British Museum published in 1820.[16][17]

The smallest "classical" true finches are the Andean siskin (Spinus spinescens) at as little as 9.5 cm (3.8 in) and the lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria) at as little as 8 g (0.28 oz). The largest species is probably the collared grosbeak (Mycerobas affinis) at up to 24 cm (9.4 in) and 83 g (2.9 oz), although larger lengths, to 25.5 cm (10.0 in) in the pine grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), and weights, to 86.1 g (3.04 oz) in the evening grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertina), have been recorded in species which are slightly smaller on average.[18][19] They typically have strong, stubby beaks, which in some species can be quite large; however, Hawaiian honeycreepers are famous for the wide range of bill shapes and sizes brought about by adaptive radiation. All true finches have 9 primary remiges and 12 rectrices. The basic plumage colour is brownish, sometimes greenish; many have considerable amounts of black, while white plumage is generally absent except as wing-bars or other signalling marks. Bright yellow and red carotenoid pigments are commonplace in this family, and thus blue structural colours are rather rare, as the yellow pigments turn the blue color into green. Many, but by no means all true finches have strong sexual dichromatism, the females typically lacking the bright carotenoid markings of males.[1]
Distribution and habitat
American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) male (left) and female (right) in Johnston County, North Carolina, USA

The finches have a near-global distribution, being found across the Americas, Eurasia and Africa, as well as some island groups such as the Hawaiian islands. They are absent from Australasia, Antarctica, the Southern Pacific and the islands of the Indian Ocean, although some European species have been widely introduced in Australia and New Zealand.

Finches are typically inhabitants of well-wooded areas, but some can be found on mountains or even in deserts.

The finches are primarily granivorous, but euphoniines include considerable amounts of arthropods and berries in their diet, and Hawaiian honeycreepers evolved to utilize a wide range of food sources, including nectar. The diet of Fringillidae nestlings includes a varying amount of small arthropods. True finches have a bouncing flight like most small passerines, alternating bouts of flapping with gliding on closed wings. Most sing well and several are commonly seen cagebirds; foremost among these is the domesticated canary (Serinus canaria domestica). The nests are basket-shaped and usually built in trees, more rarely in bushes, between rocks or on similar substrate.[1]
List of genera

The family Fringillidae contains 230 species divided into 50 genera and three subfamilies. The subfamily Carduelinae includes 18 extinct Hawaiian honeycreepers and the extinct Bonin grosbeak.[6] See List of Fringillidae species for further details.

Subfamily Fringillinae

Fringilla – 3 species of chaffinch and the brambling

Subfamily Carduelinae

Mycerobas – 4 Palearctic grosbeaks
Coccothraustes – 3 species
Eophona – 2 oriental grosbeaks, the Chinese and the Japanese grosbeak
Pinicola – pine grosbeak
Pyrrhula – 8 bullfinch species
Rhodopechys – 2 species, the Asian crimson-winged finch and the African crimson-winged finch
Bucanetes – trumpeter and the Mongolian finch
Agraphospiza – Blanford's rosefinch
Callacanthis – spectacled finch
Pyrrhoplectes – golden-naped finch
Procarduelis – dark-breasted rosefinch
Leucosticte – 6 species of mountain and rosy finches
Carpodacus – 27 Palearctic rosefinch species
Hawaiian honeycreeper group (tribe Drepanidini)
Melamprosops – contains a single extinct species, the po'ouli
Paroreomyza – 3 species, the Oahu alauahio, the Maui alauahio and the extinct kakawahie
Oreomystis – akikiki
Telespiza – 4 species, the Laysan finch, the Nihoa finch, and 2 prehistoric species
Loxioides – 2 species, the palila and a prehistoric species
Rhodacanthis – 2 recently extinct species, the lesser and the greater koa finch, and 2 prehistoric species
Chloridops – extinct species, the Kona grosbeak
Psittirostra – ou
Dysmorodrepanis – extinct species, the Lanai hookbill
Drepanis – 2 extinct species, the Hawaii mamo and the black mamo, and the extant iiwi
Ciridops – single recently extinct species, the Ula-ai-hawane, and 3 prehistoric species
Palmeria – contains a single species, the akohekohe
Himatione – 2 species, the apapane and the extinct Laysan honeycreeper
Viridonia – single extinct species, the greater amakihi
Akialoa – 4 recently extinct species, and 2 prehistoric species
Hemignathus – 4 species, only one of which is extant
Pseudonestor – Maui parrotbill
Magumma – anianiau
Loxops – 5 species, of which one is extinct
Chlorodrepanis – 3 species, the Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai amakihi
Haemorhous – 3 North America rosefinches
Chloris – 6 greenfinches
Rhodospiza – desert finch
Rhynchostruthus – 3 golden-winged grosbeaks
Linurgus – oriole finch
Crithagra – 37 species of canaries, serins and siskins from Africa and the Arabian Peninsula
Linaria – 4 species including the twite and three linnets
Acanthis – 3 redpolls
Loxia – 6 crossbills
Chrysocorythus – 2 species
Carduelis – 3 species including the European goldfinch
Serinus – 8 species including the European serin
Spinus – 20 species including the North American goldfinches and the Eurasian siskin

Subfamily Euphoniinae

Euphonia – 27 species all with euphonia in their English name
Chlorophonia – 5 species all with chlorophonia in their English name

See also

The Finch Society of Australia


Newton (1973), Clement et al. (1993)
Eschener, Kat (30 December 2016). "The Story of the Real Canary in the Coal Mine". Smithsonian. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
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"A consensus taxonomy for the Hawaiian honeycreepers » Malama Mauna Kea Library Catalog". Retrieved 2021-04-17.
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