Tuesday, March 29, 2011

House Finches and Purple Finches

There are two kinds of "red" finches that frequent our feeders: house finches and purple finches. They look very similar, so let's talk about their differences.

Roger Tory Peterson described purple finches as "sparrows dipped in raspberry juice." They are patchy red all the way down to the tail, with very little brown on them; as opposed to house finches which have a red breast and brown wings and head.  Their songs are also different, listen to the Purple finch here, and the house finch here, (When you get there, you'll need to scroll down for both).

Purple finch (Carpodacus purpureus). 
Photo: Thomas Klak
Purple finches are a bit bigger than house finches.   The females are very streaky and they have a light eyebrow - in the males, the eyebrow shows up as a lighter red patch.  They have a distinct red patch at their tail, visible just under their wings.   You can see it in the photo right.   

House finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
Photo: Birdfreak.com

House finches have distinct brown stripes on their lower body and a very small red patch above the tail.  Their cheeks are brown, not red.

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