My life is about living with nature – here you can live it with me!

Purple Finch Visits the Feeder

Purple Finch

When the weather gets bad, the birds require doing just about anything to make sure they have built up enough fat to survive the cold nights. As in yesterdays post, I discussed how many species were heading straight for the roads with hopes of finding worms, bugs or seeds. I have also been talking about the Tree Swallows skimming the lakes in search of flying insects. In my previous posts, I had neglected to tell you about the numerous birds that I have been seeing at my birdfeeders. One highlighted bird that I want to tell you about is the Purple Finch (Many videos here, avoid if you do dial-up).

The Petersons Field Guide describes the Purple Finch as “a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice”. I think the House Finch can be easily confused with this description and maybe I can help everyone with what the Purple Finch really looks like. Both appear to have this purplish red coloring the Purple Finch has much more coloring on its back and sides. Females can be easily identified by the very distinct brown and white stripping in its head where the House Finch has a more of a plain brownish head to her. I would show you pictures of the House Finch, but we see very few of them here in the woods. I would like everyone to watch the behaviors of the Purple Finch in this next video. Can you easily identify the Male or Female?

We many times assume the dull colored birds are the females and brightly colored bird are always the males. Typically this is true but this time of the year the second year (born last summer) males can look almost identical to the female Purple Finch. Bird Banders with the bird in the hand even need to record the second year birds as an unknown sex. But the after second year males are obviously males with their “dipped in raspberry juice” look. This allows the females to visually identify the older males on territory who “should” be better fit in taking care of their young. Just view these males in this next video.

I would also like to point out that the Purple Finch main diet is seeds. The have a very strong bill which is used for cracking open these seeds and as a bird bander, you can believe me when I tell you their bills hurt. In this next video, watch how the Purple Finch will pick up the seed, puts pressure on the seed from one side to the other, then using its tongue (hard to see its tongue) grab the meaty part of the seed and then drop the shell. I love that when they are shelling the seed that they are also looking around for predators and/or any rivalries that are in the area.

Without this snow storm that hit Western New York, I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunity to observe so many of these outstanding Purple Finches and then share these videos with you. These birds are obviously very capable of handling this kind of weather. But, I still continue to worry about our insect eating birds that are currently here. Spring, where are you it is Easter Sunday? HAPPY EASTER EVERYONE!!

The Back of the Purple Finch

9 responses

  1. Great videos! Our birdfeeder is not close enough to the house for us to see their more intimate behaviors or to hear their comments to each other. This really captures so much detail.

    We have both the House Finch and the Purple Finch here. I’m still not sure I can identify them. Although I’m starting to think that I may be seeing more Purple finches than I had assumed.

    8 April 2007 at 11:24 am

  2. Nice videos!! Over here in IL, Purple Finches are few and far between. As I’m sure you know, they’re considered to have been pushed out of many areas by House Finches. I only get House Finches on my feeders although I know that not too many miles away Purple Finches also visit.

    8 April 2007 at 10:21 pm

  3. @ Robin – thanks and up close and personal is my style (Its the style I want to have)! Do spend time with them, you very possibly could have more there than you think!
    @ Matt, thanks and probably the reason I have so many Purple Finches are because I am out in the woods with no House Finch’s! Thanks for your kind words!

    8 April 2007 at 10:30 pm

  4. I’ve only had a good look at a female Purple Finch but not the male. I remember looking at every male house finch hoping it was a Purple Finch.

    9 April 2007 at 6:28 pm

  5. Larry – The House Finch are always in question but when you see a Purple Finch, their is no doubt what you have!

    10 April 2007 at 8:45 am

  6. Wow – look at the details on that last shot. Fantastic.

    10 April 2007 at 4:56 pm

  7. Thanks for the lesson in telling the birds apart. Today I saw some birds that I thought were House Finches that looked a little bigger than usual. I’ll check to make sure that they aren’t Martins tomorrow.

    12 April 2007 at 9:51 pm

  8. @ Marty – thanks!
    @ Barb – Purple Finches are more purpleish for sure!

    13 April 2007 at 10:36 am

  9. Betsy

    Love your videos – I have had the wonderful opportunity to provide a yearly nesting spot to a pair of Purple Finches, of all places, in my porch light (the porch is ceilinged). This is the third year, and I am uncertain as to if this is the same “couple” or not. As it were, my French Doors provide a view of them from my living room, and of course ample entertainment for my cats!
    It seems so strange for them to pick such a busy spot for a nesting spot, as we go in/out of the doors, BBQ on the porch, sit an visit, etc…It seems as though they have just settled into being a part of our family for the past 3 years, and hatch their babies to our delight every Spring. I wish I could share the photo’s with you all.
    I am located in South Central North Dakota, in town

    28 April 2007 at 8:32 am

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