Daily Bird: Purple Finch
October 28, 2020
Purple Finches are stacked up at the feeder right now, yielding their posts only to Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Blue Jays. This is the seventh day in a row they’ve been here. In recent years they’ve stopped by only for a quick visit. This is their longest stay. And it isn’t just here. Purple Finches are hard to miss in Connecticut now. Take this opportunity to watch and enjoy.
We seem to be in a rare “irruption” season for the so-called winter finches: Evening Grosbeaks and Red-breasted Nuthatches, in addition to Purple Finches and yesterday’s Daily Bird, Pine Siskin. Hopes are high for Common Redpolls and Red Crossbills too.
They’re not all finches and they’re not here in winter, but they’re a great group of birds. Enjoy today’s Daily Bird and look for another tomorrow. — Tom Andersen
Purple Finches are chunky, streaky brown and whitish birds. Males have pinkish-red plumage that starts most intensely at the crown and gets more faded down towards the lower and back parts of the body; females and immature birds are all streaky brown and white.
Both sexes have thick, cone-shaped bills with a sharp, pointy tip well-adapted to crack seeds. If you are looking at them while they are backlit, their bills are smaller than cardinals but larger than sparrows. They have noticeably short, notched tails and a white stripe behind their eyes. Gilles Carter took the video, above, at the Milford Point Coastal Center’s “magic fountain.”
Purple Finches have a close relative that is far more common in this area, House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus). You can tell the difference by plumage, bill shape and tail length.
Female Purple Finches are more dramatically streaky brown and white than female House Finches. Male Purple Finches are less intensely red overall than House Finches, and the color is far less variable in Purple than in House Finches.
Also, you can see even in a silhouette that the Purple Finch bill is pointier than the House Finch bill, which is more blunt. The Purple Finch tail length appears considerably shorter than House Finch tails.
Because they are seed eaters, you probably will see them at your bird feeder. You can put up any standard tube feeder and keep it full of high quality seed such as black oil sunflower seeds.
Visit a nearby sanctuary, especially one that keeps feeders stocked and has fresh water nearby. Purple Finches are forest species, so if you are afield, keep your eyes out for them along with chickadees, titmice and other forest songbirds.
Conservation status: Purple Finch populations are of low conservation concern because their numbers have remained stable over the last several decades according to the IUCN.