Purple FinchCarpodacus purpureus (Gmelin)
Status Fairly common in summer, uncommon in winter. Breeds. Spring birds generally appear in April (average 11 April, earliest 14 March; appearances in February and early March may represent locally wintering birds). Large arrivals may occur through April and into May. In summer Purple Finches may be found almost anywhere but particularly in coniferous, especially spruce, woodlands. Main fall movements occur in September and October, after which the birds appear intermittently at feeding stations. During autumn they also eat wild berries and are especially fond of the multiflora rose.
Description Length: 14-16 cm. Adult male: Head, back and breast rose red, brighter on rump; wings and tail dark brown, feathers edged with red; lower breast paler red, shading to white on belly. (This plumage is not acquired until the male is about two years old.) Adult female: Upperparts light olive-brown, streaked with dark brown; underparts white, boldly streaked with dark olive-brown, shading to white on belly.
Breeding Nest: Composed of twigs and grass stems, rough exteriorly, lined variously with hair, fine rootlets, beard lichen when available, and occasionally wool from a sheep; usually placed near the top of a small or medium-sized spruce or fir in open woodland, sometimes so high as to be among the cone-bearing branchlets. Rarely it nests in deciduous trees, the nest saddled on a horizontal branch; apple trees in an orchard have been the only kind of deciduous tree used by this finch for nesting that I have noted.
Eggs: 4-6, usually 5; blue, spotted sparsely about the larger end with black. These birds are rather late nesters, normally not laying until late May. Nest construction was noted on 12 May at Wolfville, and the earliest date for a complete set of fresh eggs is 30 May 1914. Of 13 nests examined, 7 contained five eggs, 5 contained four, and 1 held a set of six. The latest date for a set of first laying is 17 June 1913, the eggs slightly incubated. A nest discovered on Wolfville Ridge on 31 May 1915 contained five fresh eggs and was attended by what appeared to be two protesting females; it was later learned that one of them was a male in subadult plumage, an indication that first-year males breed.
Range Breeds from northern British Columbia, northern Alberta, central Manitoba, southern Quebec, and Newfoundland, south to northern New Jersey, central Minnesota, southern Alberta and along the Pacific coast to Baja California. Winters from Nova Scotia, southern Ontario and southern British Columbia to the southern United States.
Remarks The male Purple Finch's song and bright red plumage are notable characteristics. The name "Purple" is a misnomer, for the male is rose-coloured. His song in its fullness is a rich, rapidly enunciated, loud ecstatic warble, sometimes poured out in a torrent of melody as he hovers on outspread trembling wings. I heard one male attempt to sing very early in spring, but its tremulous, feeble rendition bore little resemblance to the song just described.
At nesting time some bird species show a preference for locations close to human habitation—Tree Swallows and Yellow Warblers, for instance—but others have a strong opposite preference. The Purple Finch is quite impartial in this regard, building its nest just as often in our gardens as in remote forested areas.
There is little justification for confusing the male of this species with any of our other birds, except possibly the House Finch, but the female is a different matter. She is a heavily striped, grayish brown, sparrow-sized bird with a conspicuous whitish line extending back from above her eye.
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