This gallery contains 2 photos. Unlike their lookalike cousins–the resident and seemingly ubiquitous House Finches–Purple Finches are uncommon visitors, putting in backyard appearances during the winter when other food sources like berries and insects are scarce. The males are far more skittish than the females, who have much more staying power–usually opening a window is enough to spur the former to flight. This adult male proved an exception to the rule, and not only flew over to the cherry tree (answering my unspoken wishes!), but remained there, relatively motionless, for a few minutes — enough time for me to get a few captures of his raspberry-stained plumage on this cloudy, rainy day. They get that lovely hue from the food they eat, and this also attracts the attention of the ladies.
red (from their food) stains males’ heads, faces, throats, breasts, backs, and rumps (Jan 17)
f/9, 1/15, 500mm, ISO 800
Female Purple Finches have the same streaky markings, facial patterns, and “peaked” heads as the males, but lack red. I usually see females more often than males, but on one recent occasion, two breeding pairs showed up in the backyard. Apparently, the tiny nyjer (and not just the black oil sunflower seeds) in the elevated feeding station was irresistible. I’ve only seen Purple Finches in small flocks. They are not quite as aggressive as the House Finches are with other songbirds where food is concerned. Their song is also quite subdued and brief, compared to the budgie-like songs of the House Finches.
a female Purple Finch in the cherry tree. her large conical beak makes short work of seed (Jan 25)
f/9, 1/250, 500mm, ISO 800
To learn more about Purple Finches, visit their Cornell Lab of Ornithology allaboutbirds.org profile here. To distinguish between the three members of the red finch family (House, Purple, and Cassin Finches), which all may occur on the Pacific Coast, visit this link.