PURPLE FINCH

PURPLE FINCH (Haemorhous purpureus)

The adult male Purple Finch has a raspberry red head, and the upper body with part of the wings are washed out raspberry red. The rest of the wings and the tail are medium brown. The rump is white. The female is brownish with lighter streaks, with a white line behind the eye. The bill and legs are grey. Finches are seed eaters, as shown by their robust conical bills. The purple finch is approximately 15 cm (6 in.) long.

The Latin name ‘Haemorhous’ comes from ancient Greek and refers to ‘bleeding’ (think of ‘haemorrhage’), and ‘purpureus’ refers to the purple color. Since obviously this bird is not bleeding any more than other bird species, this genus name was given by British ornithologist William J. Swainson due to the species’ red color in the males.

The purple finch is usually found in coniferous forests, but has well adapted to urban settings, where it can be seen at bird feeders. It is fond of sunflower seeds. When a group of finches is jostling for position around a food source, females will usually prevail over males. In addition to seeds, the purple finch also eats berries and insects when available.

Purple finches build their nests in conifers or deciduous trees on a branch, with another one above offering protection. The nest height can vary from near the ground to near the top of the tree. This finch has a melodious song, and can even sometimes imitate the song of other birds.

This finch species is a year-round resident on PEI and is common on the island almost year-round, depending on food sources. Its overall breeding range includes the boreal Canadian forests, and the populations that migrate are found mostly throughout the eastern half of the USA in the winter.

Conservation: the purple finch population has declined due to out-competing by a similar but introduced species, the House Finch. Its population levels are also influenced by food sources such as cone crops and insect outbreaks in its habitat. Recently on PEI, the purple finch has been impacted by a contagious disease, Trichomonosis, which is spread from bird to bird at improperly maintained bird feeders.

Purple finch - Kensington area, PEI - Apr. 15, 2017 - by Chris Rice
Purple finch – Kensington area, PEI – Apr. 15, 2017 – Chris Rice
Purple finch, female - Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC - photo by Cephas
Purple finch, female – Cap Tourmente National Wildlife Area, QC – photo by Cephas
Purple Finch pair munching on seeds - Souris area, PEI - May 22, 2017 - Sandra Meade
Purple Finch pair munching on seeds – Souris area, PEI – May 22, 2017 – Sandra Meade

The song of the purple finch can be heard just after the first half of the video.

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