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Finch Anatomy

Canaries, Zebra finches and all the other commonly available pet finches share the same basic anatomical features.

The main differences between the various birds are not anatomical, but lie in the length and color of different feathers. A Crested Canary, for example, sports a quiff on the crown, while frilled types have long curling feathers on the breast, flanks, shoulders, back and elsewhere. These are cosmetic differences rather than anatomical ones, and the illustration below still applies.

Finch anatomy
Know your finch - the various body parts

  • The tail is for balance and steady flight. It also helps the flying bird change direction and acts as a brake when it wants to land.
  • Tail and wing feathers need to be kept in top condition - in the wild they are the birds’ chief means of survival.
  • Canaries and finches have four toes - three facing forwards and one facing backwards, giving a good grip on perches.
  • Finch beaks are short, wedge-shaped and thick - the sign of a seed-eater. Songbirds that eat live, soft food have less powerful, more pointed beaks. Compare the beak of a robin with that of a finch for a good illustration of this.

Bird senses

Birds heavily rely on their eyes and ears to make sense of the outside world. A bird in flight has to take in a lot of visual information, process it, identify danger, water, roosting sites, etc. They also need good hearing to be able to interact with all their neighbours, and to understand the various songs and calls of their fellow species and other birds. This is vital in the nesting season, when a good song will be the starting point for reproduction.

Finches have excellent color vision. This helps them spot and select food; and nesting birds also respond to the color of their fledglings’ open-mouthed “gape”. The sight of this bottomless pit of a chicks throat triggers a natural instinct in the bird’s parents to keep the food coming. Canaries are rather over-stimulated in this respect, responding to a red splodge (the pharyngeal spot) at the back of their young one’s throats. This spot only becomes visible when the chick gapes.

Blue Gouldian Finch
The Gouldian Finch - this bird may have a big beak, but like all the finches, it's all eyes and ears

Finches have a poor sense of smell and taste. This doesn’t stop them from having favorite foods, however, and they still require a lot of variety in their diets.

Customer Images


Kendall, 27 April 2020

I am new to this, so I want to learn. I have no chicks at the moment so I am ahead of myself. I have bought a feeding tube for finch chicks so I want to know how to fill the crop and not the lungs. 40 years ago when I was a farmer’s wife I had to learn how to tube lambs using trial and error so a few ended up with lungs full of milk. I want to learn the intelligent way this time. My plan is to learn how to successfully rear the most difficult breed of small birds I could afford so that I can hand rear more expensive birds for a business. I would like to see the anatomy of the ‘mouth’ to lungs and crop so I can avoid trial and error. Even with my inexperience, I have successfully reared 2 out of 3. Any help and advice you can give would be appreciated Kendall ????