Purple Finch Haemorphous purpureus Gmelin (1789)
Appearance: – Males raspberry red coloration spreads relatively uniformly across upperparts, head, neck, and sides; lower belly and undertail-coverts usually unmarked, white. Females and immatures, which are virtually indistinguishable, generally have little or no red, are strongly streaked across back and sides of belly with dark brown over gray, and have a conspicuous light eyebrow stripe contrasting with a solid ear patch.
Irruptions Winter 2020-21: “Eastern” birds will irrupt into the southern states, particularly in the mountains, in numbers this winter 2020-21. Some numbers will also be found across parts of the Plains states.
Natural History: – : Most frequently observed feeding on buds and seeds of elms, tuliptree, maples, sweet gum, sycamores, ash, redcedar, juniper, mountain ash and spruce. Will readily take sunflower seed at platform or tube feeders, particularly in winter and migration.
Irruptions 2020-21: “Eastern” birds will irrupt into the southern states, particularly in the mountains, in numbers this winter 2020-21. Some numbers will also be found across parts of the Plains states.
“Eastern” Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus purpureus
-> SC and SE Canada, NE USA
“Pacific” Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus californicus
-> SW Canada, W USA
Known range: “Eastern” is moderately common across the northern United States, and southern and central Canada. During the winter, it ranges throughout much of the eastern United States occasionally south to Florida and southern Canada. Is a vagrant to western States. “Western” Resident on the west coast of North America.
Object of study: song, flight call and genetic differences
Flight call: “Eastern” soft squeaky tic-tic; very distinctive and is easily confused with any of the other finch flight calls. “Western” hard pik-pik; very distinctive and different from flight call of Eastern Purple Finch and the other finches.
Irruptions: “Eastern” populations appear to irrupt southward when coniferous seed crops fail but more study is needed. The spruce seed crop is poor this year across southeastern Canada and northeastern U.S., and the “Eastern” Purple Finch should be found into the Plains and southern states. “Western” Pacific subspecies is resident and the two subspecies are thought to have split nearly 100,000 years ago. There are vocal and morphological differences between these two subspecies. The flight calls and songs differ: Eastern birds give more varied song, flight calls softer and squeakier and some more musical call notes resemble Pine Grosbeak. Pacific birds show distinct plumage differences: Pacific ssp. has first primary longer than fourth primary, generally more yellow-olive color in body markings, and sides and flanks of male more suffice with brown. Pacific birds are largely resident and Eastern birds are highly migratory. Could warrant species status, more study needed.
FiRN Needs: Recordings from the entire distribution area would be appreciated.