Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Purple Finches

Purple Finches have finally arrived in southern Mississippi for their winter stay.   I read a few articles about these lovely birds a couple weeks ago and I've been anticipating their arrival.  I first noticed them on the 16th, while they foraged for seeds in my back yard.  Their shades of raspberry stood out among the crowd of brown and gray birds, so they immediately captured my attention.  I hope they'll hang around a while- I'd love to observe them more.  This year has been my first to observe and photograph these beauties.

Male Purple Finches are delicate pink-red on the head and breast, mixing with brown on the back and cloudy white on the belly. Female Purple Finches have no red. They are coarsely streaked below, with strong facial markings including a whitish eyestripe and a dark line down the side of the throat. Purple Finches are large and chunky. Their powerful, conical beaks are larger than any sparrow’s. The tail seems short and is clearly notched at the tip.  

The Males:

Aggressive Purple Finches show their agitation by leaning toward their opponent, neck stretched out and bill pointed at the other bird. This can intensify to standing upright, opening the beak or pointing it downward at opponent, and sometimes results in actual pecking attacks. During disputes at food sources and in flocks, females usually win out over males. Courting males sing softly while hopping and fluffing feathers in front of the female, often holding a twig or grass stem in the beak. If things go well, the next step is a short flight about one foot straight up, followed by drooping the wings and pointing his beak to the sky. Mating may follow.

Purple Finches are erratic migrants that follow cone crops. Typically they leave Canadian breeding grounds to winter widely across central and southeastern U.S, returning to specific regions roughly every other year. Birds that breed in northeastern U.S. and along the Pacific Coast may not migrate.

Purple Finches eat mainly seeds of coniferous trees and elms, tulip poplars, maples, and others. They also eat soft buds, nectar (extracted by biting the bases off flowers), and many berries and fruit, including blackberries, honeysuckle, poison ivy, crabapples, juniper berries, cherries, and apricots. In winter you may see Purple Finches eating seeds of low plants like dandelions, ragweed, and cocklebur. They eat some insects, including aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and beetles.

The Females:

Purple Finches have large, seed-cracking beaks, and they seem to like black oil sunflower seeds best. Your backyard sunflower seed feeder is probably a great place to look for Purple Finches if you live within their winter range. This species moves very erratically from year to year, so if you don’t have them this year, there’s always a chance they’ll arrive next year.

I hope you enjoyed my photos and information on Purple Finches (which came directly from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology web site).  As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts and comment.  It's a pleasure to share my love of nature with you and to receive your feedback.  Have a wonderful day :)


  1. Great info and pictures of the Purple Finch Susan. You are so lucky to be able to see these colourful little birds, I never knew they existed until today. Thank you!:)

  2. Susan great post on the Purple Finches. They are gorgeous birds, especially the colorful male.. Awesome photos, have a happy day!

  3. They're beautiful birds! Great shots!

  4. they're really beautiful! love that raspberry coloring. have never seen them in person.

  5. Wonderful photos of these beauties! I haven't seen them in two years. Maybe that'll change. Hope so. Enjoyed learning so much more about them from your post. :)

  6. Cracking looking birds - you have far more species of finches than I get to see.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne