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Purple Finch


Purple Finch - Picture of a Purple Finch

Purple Finch - Male

Nick Saunders

A colorful bird no matter how its plumage is described, the purple finch is often described as having raspberry, red, pink, purple, wine or rose tints to its feathers. While the male does have this coloration, female purple finches are less colorful but no less striking.

Common Name:

Purple Finch

Scientific Name:

Carpodacus purpureus


  • Bill: Conical, brown
  • Size: 6 inches long with 10-inch wingspan, stocky build
  • Colors: Red, brown, white, pink
  • Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a bright red head, chest and rump with a strong rosy wash on the brown back and wings. The underparts are white with a rosy wash on the flanks. A thick brown mask covers the eyes and cheeks. Females lack any red but have a strongly marked head with fine brown stripes on the crown and a thick whitish eye line. Their overall plumage is mottled brown, and females have sharp brown streaking on the white underparts. Both genders have two faint wing bars and dark legs and feet.


Seeds, fruit, insects

Habitat and Migration:

Purple finches prefer open coniferous or mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, though they can also be found in forest edges, parks and suburban areas. Their summer range extends from the boreal region of Canada to northern Minnesota and Michigan's upper peninsula. In winter, the birds migrate to the central and southeastern United States, but are not found in the Florida panhandle. Year-round populations stay between these two ranges from the Great Lakes to New England and Newfoundland, and a year-round population is also present along the Pacific Coast from Washington to southern California. In winter, these birds can be irruptive.


The purple finch has a rich, warbling song that lasts 2-3 seconds and varies in pitch and tempo. Males will sing from exposed perches during the breeding season as they advertise their territories and availability to mates. The typical call note is a short "tek" or "tik" call that may be repeated frequently, and other sounds include "burrrr" notes and whistles.


These birds prefer to be solitary or stay in pairs during the nesting season, but they can be gregarious in the winter and will gather in larger flocks, often mixing with other finches or pine siskins. While foraging, they often stay in trees or will hop on the ground searching for seeds and insects.


These are monogamous birds that mate after the male successfully courts a female with a flapping dance. The female bird will incubate the resulting brood for 13-14 days, and the altricial young are fed by both parents for an additional 13-14 days. There are 3-5 eggs per brood, and purple finches may raise 1-2 broods per year.

Attracting Purple Finches:

These finches readily visit backyards offering black oil sunflower seeds or millet in hopper or open tray feeders, and they can be quite bold and tame once they become accustomed to the food source. Planting ash and elm trees can also provide a natural seed source to attract purple finches.

Similar Birds:

  • House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
  • Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii)
  • Common Rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus)
  • Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator)

Photo – Purple Finch – Male © Nick Saunders
Photo – Purple Finch – Female © Ed Schneider

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