Interesting Facts About Purple Finch

Raksha Kulkarni May 14, 2019
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Roger Tory Peterson, a famous ornithologist, appropriately described the Purple Finch as "a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice". Let's learn more about this beautiful species.

Did You Know?

Purple Finch is popularly known as the State Bird of New Hampshire. 

This species holds the LC (Least Concern) status in the IUCN Red List. Though fairly common, their numbers have been decreasing since the introduction of House Sparrows in certain areas.

Physical Features of a Male Purple Finch

Purple finches are rose red in color, not exactly purple! The male can be differentiated by its bright rose-red head & back, white and brown-streaked wings, and a white lower belly.

A juvenile male (less than a year old) looks similar to a female. The bright rose-red plumage can be seen after a year or so.

Physical Features of a Female Purple Finch

The female is brown and white in color with distinctive streaks. It has a bold white eyebrow and cheek patch. Both males and females have short and notched tails.

These finches have a chunky body structure with conical bills. They are around 5-6 inches in length & weigh 18-34 g.

Known Subspecies

There are 2 distinct subspecies recorded. One of the species, Eastern Purple Finch, is found in the northeast and southern Canada and the other, Pacific Purple Finch, is found on the Pacific Coast.

The Eastern subspecies is brighter than the Pacific Coast ones.

Habitat

These birds are common along the Pacific coastline, Northern America, and central and southern Canada.

They are found in a variety of habitats like mixed forests, groves, swamps, and fields. They usually breed in coniferous forests.

Purple finches migrate for short distances. They have an unpredictable migration pattern, following the growth of cone crops.

Diet

This species has great beaks which help them feed on numerous seeds of ash and elm trees.

They also feed on various buds of sweet gum, junipers, etc., and berries like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and small fruits.

These finches are also known to eat a few insects like caterpillars, beetles, grasshoppers, aphids, etc.

Mating

The bright-colored male attracts the female by hopping around his chosen partner. He starts flapping his wings till he rises above the ground.

This performance is beautifully complimented with melodious chirping. He might even show off with nesting material in his beak. Their breeding season is from April to August every year.

Nesting

The cup-shaped nest is built mostly by the female on a branch or in a fork of the tree.

Around 3-6 eggs are laid in a single brooding season. These eggs are pale bluish green in color with black and brown marks.

The female incubates her eggs for 12-13 days while the male takes care of bringing food to her.

Nestlings

The chicks are born completely naked with eyes closed. They fly in and around the nest for 2 more weeks till they gain the strength and confidence to leave their nest finally.

A couple might raise up to two broods in a single season. Both the parents share the responsibility of feeding the chicks for 14-16 days after which the chicks are ready to fly.

Backyard Tips

Coniferous trees in your backyard are likely to attract these finches the most. In feeders, black-oil sunflower seeds seem to be their favorite. These birds mostly visit feeders, which are not dominated by House Sparrows or House Finches.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of these finches is 2-7 years. The oldest purple finch recorded was about 14 years old.

These species are most vulnerable in the breeding season. Jays, Nutcrackers, Owls, Kestrels, dogs, and cats are potential predators. Lifespan in captivity is less known because the birds aren’t much kept as pets.