The Cornell Lab of Ornithology -
Last night I finally figured out the differences between the house sparrow vs. Harris' sparrow and the house finch vs. the purple finch. The finches, in particular, have confused me - they look so much alike --- that is, until you see them side by side!
Here's an example: Go to the home page. Type purple finch in the search bar. When the page comes up, (Warning! You could get lost in all the interesting information on that page, believe me!) scroll down to "Field Marks" and "Similar Species". There are lots of photos to scroll through there, but the great feature is, you can click on "Similar Species" and two large windows will pop up on the page - like this:
From here, you can scroll through the photos of either window and compare! There are photos of the birds in different seasons, male and female, and a description on each photo. By the time you go through these photos, you should have a much better idea of how to distinquish between those tricky little look-alikes!
Regarding the finches, I learned that the house finch, though its reddish color may be brilliant, is red only on the head, down the front, and sometimes a fleck of red between the wings just above the tail; whereas, the purple finch is practically red/purple all over! Its wings are tinted red - the house finch's wings are just browns and cream.
This is only one feature on the site! There are lots of photos, maps and information regarding habitat, life history, and behavior. There are sound bites of songs and helpful videos for successful birding.
If you've never been to The Cornell Lab site - Go! Now! ;) and have lots of fun!
(Disclaimer: If in my excitement I am in error about what I think I've discovered, please let me know?) thanks ;)