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Purple Finch

Haemorhous purpureus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: FRINGILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Purple Finch Photo

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast. Separating them from House Finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests, too, where you’re likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees.

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Songs

Males sing three kinds of songs, all including the rich, slurred warbling characteristic of finch songs. There's the "warbling song," a fast, rising and falling string of 6-23 notes often sung while flocking. Males usually sing a "territory song" alone; it begins with a few notes on the same pitch before breaking into warbling and ending with a high, emphatic note. The third is an up-and-down cadence of 2-5 notes that sounds similar to a Red-eyed Vireo’s whistled hear-me?-see-me?-here-i-am. Females sing their own songs, a long 1-2 minute warbling from the nest.

Calls

Typical call note is a short, low tek.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Purple Finches have large, seed-cracking beaks, and they seem to like black oil sunflower seeds best. A seed preference study determined that they choose thinner sunflower seeds over wider ones. Coniferous trees in your backyard may encourage Purple Finches to visit.

Find This Bird

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.

Get Involved

Join Project FeederWatch and contribute your Purple Finch sightings this winter

The erratic movements of Purple Finches and other seed-eating birds present a scientific puzzle – one that requires lots of data all collected simultaneously over a huge area for us to begin to understand. One great way to help scientists get a handle on finch movements is to contribute your sightings to the Avian Knowledge Network by participating in eBird.

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