Purple Finch

Haemorhous purpureus
Purple Finch specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

One of the more striking birds in its range, the male Purple Finch (5 3/4 inches) is most readily identified by its purplish-red head, breast, and rump. Other field marks include a large bill, dark legs, and notched tail. The female Purple Finch is much less colorful, with a brown back and a brown-streaked breast. The Purple Finch breeds across southern Canada, the northeastern U.S., and the west coast of North America from British Columbia south to central California. In winter, this species withdraws from northern parts of its range, and may be found widely across the eastern U.S. and in southern California. In areas where Purple Finches occur all year, local breeders are displaced in winter by more northerly-breeding birds. In summer, the Purple Finch breeds primarily in evergreen forests. During the winter, this species may also be found in deciduous and mixed deciduous and evergreen forests as well as in thickets and hedges. Purple Finches primarily eat seeds and other plant matter, but may also eat insects when available. Like many finches, the Purple Finch frequently visits bird feeders. In wilder areas, this species may be observed feeding on seeds or buds on the ends of tree branches. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Occurs from October to April: fairly common winter visitor; abundant spring migrant, less common in the autumn. The male is purplish red; the female and young are brown with dusky streaks.

Specimen Information

The bird on the left is a female; a male is on the right.