The Purple Finch | Highlands Plateau Audubon Society
Written By: William McReynolds - Highlands Plateau Audubon Society | Issue: 2021/01 – Winter
This “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice” stays the winter with us.
This is the state bird of New Hampshire. The Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is a seasonal resident of the Highlands Plateau during winter months as flocks migrate to the southeastern U.S. from Canada.
Larger than an American Goldfinch and the White-breasted Nuthatch, the female Purple Finch is brown and white with bold streaks on her head, breast and belly, a white “brow” above the eyes and lower moustachial markings. The male, described by Roger Tory Peterson as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice,” has a reddish wash over its head, back and wings. Both have distinctive notched tails and triangular bills.
The differences between Purple Finch and House Finch are easily mastered.
Their habitat is mixed and coniferous woodlands. During the summer, Purple Finch feed on seeds, insects, berries and buds high in the trees. In winter they forage lower in the forest, searching for seeds, competing with other ground feeders.
Their breeding grounds are in Canada, California and the northeastern U.S., ranging from Minnesota to West Virginia. They build their nests on horizontal branches and branch forks using twigs, grass and moss, creating well-shaped cups that are lined with animal hair and fine grass.
The female lays and incubates four or five blue-green eggs with brown spots on the larger end. Hatchlings appear in about 13 days, fed by both parents until they fledge about two weeks after hatching.
Sibley describes the song of the Purple Finch as hoarse and warbled: plidi tididi preete plidi tititi preer. Try warbling that! Others call the song simply a pleasant warble. Their call in flight is a sharp tick. They are often seen congregating with other finch and local birds around feeder stations offering sunflower seeds.
Happy winter birding from the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society.
The mission of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society is to provide opportunities to enjoy and learn about birds and other wildlife and to promote conservation and restoration of the habitats that support them. HPAS is a 501 (c) (3) organization, a Chapter of the National Audubon Society. Visit www.highlandsaudubonsociety.org for information on membership and all activities.