Photo: Simon Pierre Barrette/Wikimedia Commons

Purple Finch

Haemorhous purpureus

Not really purple, more of an old-rose color is the male Purple Finch. This species is common in the North and East, and along the Pacific seaboard, but it is very rare in much of the Rocky Mountains region. Purple Finches feed up in trees and on the ground in open woods. They readily come to bird feeders; but they have become less numerous as feeder visitors in the Northeast, where competition with introduced House Sparrows and then House Finches may have driven them back into the woods.
Conservation status Probably decreased in Northeast in late 19th century after introduction of House Sparrow. In recent decades has declined further in that area, possibly owing to competition with House Finch.
Family Finches
Habitat Woods, groves, suburbs. Breeds mostly in coniferous and mixed woods, both in forest interior and along edges. In Pacific states, also breeds in oak woodland and streamside trees. In migration and winter, found in a wide variety of wooded and semi-open areas, including forest, suburbs, swamps, and overgrown fields.
Not really purple, more of an old-rose color is the male Purple Finch. This species is common in the North and East, and along the Pacific seaboard, but it is very rare in much of the Rocky Mountains region. Purple Finches feed up in trees and on the ground in open woods. They readily come to bird feeders; but they have become less numerous as feeder visitors in the Northeast, where competition with introduced House Sparrows and then House Finches may have driven them back into the woods.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, Eastern
  • immature (1st yr) , Eastern
  • adult female, Eastern
  • adult male, Pacific
  • adult male, Eastern
Feeding Behavior

Forages for seeds and insects up in trees and shrubs, also in low weeds and sometimes on the ground. When not nesting, may forage in small flocks. Comes to bird feeders.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 3-6. Pale greenish blue, marked with black and brown. Incubation is by female, about 13 days. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 brood per year, possibly 2 in Pacific Coast region.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 brood per year, possibly 2 in Pacific Coast region.

Diet

Seeds, buds, berries, insects. Feeds mainly on seeds in winter, including seeds of trees such as ash and elm, as well as weed and grass seeds. Also eats buds of many trees, and many berries and small fruits. Eats some insects such as caterpillars and beetles, mainly in summer. Young may be fed mostly on seeds.


Nesting

In courtship, male hops near female with his wings drooping, tail raised, chest puffed out, then vibrates wings until he rises a short distance in the air. May hold bits of nest material in bill and give soft song during this performance. Nest: Placed on horizontal branch or fork of tree (usually conifer in East, deciduous trees often used in far West), often well out from trunk. Typically about 15-20' above ground but may be lower or up to 50' high. Nest (probably built mostly by female) is compact open cup of twigs, weeds, rootlets, strips of bark, lined with fine grass, moss, animal hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks, mostly traveling by day. Migration is spread over a considerable period in both spring and fall.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks, mostly traveling by day. Migration is spread over a considerable period in both spring and fall.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Rich musical warble. Call a distinctive tick in flight.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Purple Finch

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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