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Purple Finch

Haemorhous purpureus

Length: 6 inches Wingspan: 10 inches Seasonality: Winter
ID Keys: Compare to House Finch, with more distinct facial pattern, more uniform red on male

Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureusA winter visitor often seen at home feeders in South Dakota.  Purple Finch populations in the East have been hard hit, first by competition with the introduced House Sparrow, and then by the introduction and spread of the House Finch in the East.  The photo on the right shows the brightly-colored male, while additional photos of both males and females can be found at the bottom of the page.

Habitat:

Prefers coniferous or mixed woods for breeding (outside of South Dakota).  Found in a wide variety of habitats during migration and in winter, including forest edges and openings, brushy fields, and residential areas. 

Diet:

Primarily seeds in the winter, also some fruit and berries.  Will occasionally feed on insects in the summer.

Behavior:

Often gregarious outside of the breeding season, foraging in small flocks.  Will forage at nearly any level, from the ground up through the forest canopy.

Breeding:

Non-breeder in South Dakota.  In their breeding range, the nest is a small cup built of weed stems, twigs, strips of bark, and other material, lined with softer material such as grasses or animal hair.  The female lays between 2 and 7 eggs, and she alone incubates them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young.  The young leave the nest after about 2 weeks.

Song:

Males sing a sometimes quite long, variable song of rich warbled phrases. Purple Finches also have a tick call and other variable vocalizations.

1Click here to hear the warbling song of a male Purple Finch, recorded in Washington County, Wisconsin

2Click here to hear another song of a male Purple Finch, recorded in Quebec

3Click here to hear the tick call of a Purple Finch, recorded in DuPage County, Illinois

Migration:

Summers in Canada, winters in the eastern half of the U.S.  Also found in all seasons in the Northeast U.S., the Great Lakes area, and along the West Coast.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Purple Finch sightings

Similar Species:

House Finch, Cassin's Finch.  See ID Keys for Purple Finch and House Finch.

Bird Feeders:

Will attend feeders for sunflower seeds and millet.

Conservation Status:

There are undoubtedly declines in the Eastern United States due to competition with House Sparrows and House Finches.  Records from Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Count both are indicative of a population decline. However, they are still relatively common and widespread, and the IUCN lists the Purple Finch as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Purple Finch

2) Audubon - Purple Finch

3) BirdWeb - Purple Finch

Photo Information:

November 15th, 2007 - Big Sioux Recreation Area near Brandon, South Dakota

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Purple Finch photos.

Audio File Credits:

1Todd Wilson, XC97357. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/97357

2Chris Parrish, XC13636. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/13636

3Matt Wistrand, XC342339. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/342339

 

Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view 
Purple Finch - Species Range Map
South Dakota Status: Irregular winter visitor in the eastern part of the state, common to absent, most common in the northeastern part of the state.  Rare in the western part of the state.

Additional Purple Finch Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
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