Monday, March 29, 2010

Purple vs. House Finch

Today I banded a male and "female" Purple Finch.  Beginning and casual birders sometimes confuse Purple and House finches.  The Purple Finch (above) is wine-colored, whereas the House Finch (below) is more of a brick red.  Note also the flanks and the heads of the two birds: the flanks on the Purple finch are basically reddish, whereas the House Finch flanks are definitely brownish streaked; the House Finch head is more uniform than the Purple Finch's.  Look at the dark cheek and burgundy eye stripe on the Purple Finch.
The sides of the head of the "female" Purple Finch (above) are also more striking than those of the female House Finch (below).  Identifying finches in these plumages is usually a fairly easy call (at least east of the Rockies; out west different races of the two species are more similar). But the discussion gets more complicated!
Many birders are unaware that the male Purple Finch does not molt into his red plumage until his second September.  The result is that telling the sex of second-year Purple Finches is probably impossible in the field.  That's why I labeled my photograph as "female"--the bird could well be a second-year male!  Male House Finches, on the other hand, become red during their first fall.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know that fact about male Purple Finches not molting into adult plumage until 2nd year. Thanks!
    I always learn something good here.