Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Purple Finch day!

Purple Finch is a winter resident in Georgia and they start arriving Georgia as early as in the end of September. A lot of House Finches and few Pine Siskins in the past years visited my backyard but I have not seen one Purple Finch visited until today. (Left: a female Purple Finch)

However, they can easily get confused with House Finch or Pine Siskin.  In order to distinguish them from the other two, you need to look at them carefully and to me, a picture is worth a thousand words: Male Purple Finches (see last two pictures) have raspberry red on head and breast. The degree of red is also determined by food they take.  Female Purple Finches (see above) have no red at all, boldly streaked below and with a whitish eye stripe.

House Finches (see male House Finch picture below) are popular feeder visitors through out most lower 48 states. Males have red eyebrow, red breast and prominent red on rump  (you can easily see it in fly) and have brown streaked underparts.                                           

(House Finch, male)

Female House Finches (see below) have no red at all and with thick, blurry streaks  underparts.

House Finch, female

Finally, I find out the best way to identify Pine Siskins  is to look at their beak. Comparing to the short and stubby beak of House Finch or Purple Finch, Pine Siskins have thinner and sharper beak. Especially, you can clearly see two white wingbars and yellow at the base of flight feathers.  
(Above: Pine Siskin)

(Bottom two photos: male Purple Finch, photos were taken on Dec 7, 2010)

I welcome your comment and suggestion and next time you see a finch, hopefully, you then will know them better! Happy Birding! ---Linda 


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  1. Good post explaining the differences in these two confusing finches. I thought I had a Purple Finch at the landfill but upon further inspection of the photograph when I got home, I realized it was the regular old female House Finch. I'm hoping I might see one out there but the habitat may not be right.

  2. Ryan,

    Comparing to the popular House Finches, Purple Finches are irregular visitors in the southeast states during winter months. They are attracted to sunflower seed and water is a must in winter. It's exciting to see them for sure. My experience tells me that the most beautiful moment manifests with the least expected heart!

    Happy Birding!

  3. Good essay, and photos on easily confused birds. Boom & Gary of Ther Vermilon River.

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  5. That's why I like to take pictures. Happy Birding!

  6. Thank you for the helpful guide! I was bird watching this morning and thought, wow a big bunch of female purple finches and no male in sight? and then i had seen the tinge of yellow on its wings and thought "wait a minute, thats not a purple finch is it?"

    you have provided me with a great way to tell the purple finches apart from the pine siskins! Thank you so much again!

  7. Punkychewster,
    Thanks for your kind comment and I am glad you like my post ..happy birding :)


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