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Do Purple Finches have relatives? Yes, and here is when they see them.

Updated on May 27, 2016

Summary follow up... seen in flocks in parks and woods.

Read first

For the meanings of bird parts which you do not understand in this Hub, see my bird glossary.

If what you want is not in there, please let me know so that I can enter it into the glossary.

Comparing the Purple Finch with its two relatives

Male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) sitting on wrought iron (sign?) hanger.
Male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) sitting on wrought iron (sign?) hanger. | Source
This is a male Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii)   from Oregon.
This is a male Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii) from Oregon. | Source
Here is a House Finch, male, (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Here is a House Finch, male, (Carpodacus mexicanus) | Source

Interesting facts:

Why is the Purple Finch called 'purple'? (Why is the red rose called 'red'?) We mix blue and red to get purple. The male P. Finch has a deep red, with a tint of pink, on its head and upper breast; the rest of the bird is brown and white in color. The word 'purple' in etymology in Latin is "purpureus", which means "shellfish from which purple was made" and "purple dye". I do not think that the shellfish was a true purple either.

The Purple Finch could be described as the 'country cousin' of the House Finch. You could say that another member of the family is the Cassin's Finch. The three are easy to mix up. If you look take notice of the undertail coverts of the three, then you will see that the Purple Finch lacks streaks there - contrary to the other two.

The Purple Finch spends most of the time in woodlands but it will come into suburban areas and take advantage of feeders during the winter; except when nesting, Purple Finches live in what are called nomadic flocks. These flocks descend on a backyard for a short time and then move on, perhaps not to be seen again until the following winter. Because the House Finch looks so much alike, you must be very observant to confirm that it is a flock of Purple Finches. The flocks of finches may even be mixed.

Did you know that the Purple Finches sometimes strip buds in the spring? It is a habit which may look destructive to some but does not appear to harm the plant. Simply ask the plant - (oh if only plants could talk) - or simply study and observe the plants closely after the birds have come and gone. Observing the plant 24/7 will show you that it is unharmed.

The rosy color of the Purple Finch becomes brighter in the spring because it is just wearing away its dull autumn plumage at the beginning of when it gets warmer and the flowers bloom. You would think that the bird would have done that in the cold and snow.

A group of finches can be called a few names, 'charm', 'company' and 'trembling'. Probably due to what they look like when, where and to whom.


Their size does not change much from birth to adult. It starts at 5.25" and goes to about 6.5" in length when they are full grown. Usually you probably will see them between 5" to 6". It has an average wingspread of 10" when you see them in flight. If a bird stepped on a scale then a Purple Finch would weigh 0.88 oz.

Male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)

A male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) USDA Forest Service, Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests
A male Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) USDA Forest Service, Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests | Source

Colors and Patterns of the Male

Male: From all sides - left, right, top, bottom - almost all that you will see is raspberry red, except the breast is a lighter color than neck/head area. The male has the upper parts, the breast and the flanks are all a raspberry red (they are brightest in summer); the head is uniformly covered with red; there is little or no brown streaking on the breast or the flanks. The belly and the undertail coverts are basically white.

Males try to attract a mate by cocking their tails as they puff their chest and then hop as high as twelve inches in the air. (I will bet that they compete with each other to see who is better by trying to puff their chest the farthest and hop the highest!)

There are also differences in the Voice:Song and Call between the Pacific and the Eastern versions. (See below.)

Female Purple Finch ( Carpodacus purpureus)

Female Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) - Virginia (See capsule 'Colors and Patterns')
Female Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) - Virginia (See capsule 'Colors and Patterns') | Source

Colors and Patterns of the Female

Female: The description of the female almost sounds like she is putting on make-up when you describe her.

The female has a well-defined pattern on the face of a broad white eyebrow, a brown eye-line and a white cheek; with broad, blurry, brown streaking underneath; there is no streaking on the undertail coverts.

Immature Purple Finches

Immature male Purple Finch
Immature male Purple Finch | Source
Immatur female Purple Finch
Immatur female Purple Finch | Source

Colors and Patterns of the Immature

Immature: The male and female young are like the adult female. The male young may sing and breed while in this plumage. The immature plumage is kept for one year. (See Voice:Song and Call [below] for distinctive flight call.) Adult females and immatures are heavily streaked with brown. The bird often appears big-headed.

Two Different Versions?

Yes, and here they are.

There is an Eastern version and a Pacific version, here are a few differences between the two versions:

Pacific and Eastern populations are moderately distinctive. Pacific birds average slightly rounder-winged with shorter central wings and have longer tails, with more curved culmen (upper beak) than the Eastern. Pacific females are greenish above, have unclear streaks, and are washed yellowish below with longer, paler, more blurry streaks (Eastern are brownish above and white below with shorter, darker streaks). Underparts of Pacific males are washed dull brown and rump is dark red (Eastern males have cleaner, brighter colors overall).

Purple Finch at tube feeder

Purple Finch on Mother Earth

Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) standing on Mother Earth
Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) standing on Mother Earth | Source

Finches taking a bath


In the spring it forages on the ground and above, in foliage, for seeds and buds of trees and weeds, insects, and caterpillars. Plus they feed their nestlings insects. In the fall they also eat berries.

It comes to bird feeders (as long as the feeders hang high) for the sunflower and the millet seeds, and also accepts suet. They are frequent but erratic.

Did you know that they even sometimes 'tear' flowers off of a tree and crush or squash them to extract the nectar?

Nest of the P. Finch

Nest built by the Purple Finch.
Nest built by the Purple Finch. | Source


They make a nest (cup shaped) of twigs, grasses, rootlets, moss, bits of snakeskin (dead I am sure) and string. Lined with horsehair, moss and rootlets, placed on a tree. It can be between 6' to 40' high.[That height pertains to the height of the branch. Not the the thickness/height of the nest itself.]

Picture of eggs by P. F.

Purple Finch eggs.
Purple Finch eggs. | Source


In the nest they lay between 3 to 6 eggs that are a light green, to blue, with dark black and brown marks.

Incubation: During this period it is usually the female that sits on the eggs for about 13 days.

Fledging: Their young are altricial, or have to be fed and taken care of for about 14 days before they are able to leave the nest.

Breeding: These birds lay eggs once, maybe twice, between usually April through July.

Questions about the purple finch to amaze you

view quiz statistics

Purple Finch sings [a couple of delays]

Voice: Song and Call

Song is a rich, musical, warble (kind of a bubbly outburst of rapid notes on various pitches). Some notes come in a pair.

Call in flight is a dry 'tic' or a 'pik'.

Pacific and Eastern differences:

Pacific: Song is a mumbled, low, unorganized 'fridi, ferdi, frididifri, fridi, frr'; faster than the House Finch. Call is a harsh, faded whistle 'wheeoo' or 'fwidowip'; quality like song not as in the clearer, vireo like calls of Eastern.

Eastern: Song is a slightly scratchy, warbled 'plidi, tididi, preete, plidi, tititi, preeer'; bright, lively and clearly organized with highlighted ending; basically finishes with a strongly descending sound 'cheeer'; overall trend rising. Call is a short, whistled phrase like vireo song 'tweeyoo'.


They are around woods that have mixed trees, forests with needles and cones, lower mountain slopes, suburban yards and feeders. Even ornamental conifers in gardens.

They prefer Boreal or Temperate forest environments (before thay are destroyed) as well as farmlands with crops and the natural countryside or even the noisy cities.

Range map



Breeds from Yukon and British Columbia east to Newfoundland, south in the western mountains to southern California. Also from north to central United States to the Atlantic coast, south in the Appalachians to Virginia. Winters from southern Canada irregularly south to Mexico and the Gulf Coast.

Besides North America, it is also native to Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

Finches are one of the small birds which really get around!

The P. Finch has a large range, it covers an area of 4,500,000 kilometers.

Conservation Status

The popularity of the Purple Finch has dropped in the Eastern United States due to growth of the House Finch (not N.A. bird, it is called 'invader').

Even though it may have dropped in the Eastern U.S., at the present it seems to be of 'least concern'.

The worldwide culture of this bird comes to an approximate calculation of 3,000,000 birds and does not show signs of recession that would require involvement on the IUCN Red List. In other words it is safe at the moment.

Other Information and a few fun facts

These birds are Irruptive in some winters - in other words, they may eat you out of house and seed. :-) They are numerous and conspicuous during spring migration. For a few weeks each year one can hear the rich, spirited song of the brightly colored males. In winter, they visit feeding stations in large numbers, showing a fondness for sunflower seeds.

When flying, it is a swift flight that uses rapid wing beats which are replaced by the wings pulled to the sides. This rhythm goes back and forth.

It is the state bird of New Hampshire. So if you are from there it is your bird!

Purple Finch count.

Have you seen a Purple Finch?

See results

Author: Kevin - ©2013

© 2013 The Examiner-1


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    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you Susie, I am glad that you liked it. It is good that you feed the birds in the winter since they cannot get their natural food now. Yes, I remember when I began watching birds how the finches mixed so well with the other birds.

      I will look for your Haiku - today I am trying to publish a new Hub. Hmm, I guess that mine was on yours because you did not have any that they (the staff) thought related to yours. Strange though.


    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 

      4 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow, I learned a lot about the Purple Finches. We got lucky this winter to have a charm of finches using the bird feeders. They seem to get along well with the other birds, and are more than welcome.

      I wrote a haiku about the Purple Finches, and discovered your's featured on mine. Thank you for this interesting hub.

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      4 years ago

      Thank you Joe. I am glad that you enjoyed it.


    • joedolphin88 profile image


      4 years ago from north miami FL

      Wow really different hub for me but very informative, I give it a thumbs up

    • The Examiner-1 profile imageAUTHOR

      The Examiner-1 

      5 years ago

      Thank you for reminding me, I deleted it. I got my wires crossed - it just stuck in my head that they were mixed together.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Nyger is generally thistle seed. Prior to the '80's it came from Africa and was rendered sterile. Nice work on the Purple Finch. It is truly a wonderful bird.


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