Sunday, April 17, 2016

Purple Finch

I was delighted when, on 13 April 2016, this Purple Finch appeared at our feeder. This female-appearing bird could be a first-year male. Red males, like the bird in the second photo, take two years to obtain their wine-colored feathers.
I previously blogged about how to tell Purple from House finches. Over the next three days, I banded 10 Purple Finches. The most interesting of these birds was the following individual.
After eating seeds at the feeder, this bird flew up to a maple with sap running down its trunk (see last photo). The bird spent almost a minute drinking from the tree. Curiously, Wootton (1996), in the definitive Birds of North America, does not mention Purple Finches' drinking sap. A cursory internet search came up with a citation by Lange of finches drinking Box Elder sap. In 1900, Lange wondered, in the unscientific magazine Recreationif Purple Finches (and other sparrows) drink sap for the sugar or the water. He suspected water. I think a sugar solution would supply energy for many migrants.

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