Bird Bio: Purple Finch
By: Emily Molter, KBO Wildlife Education Specialist
The Purple Finch is a sexually dimorphic species with the adult males washed in a rosy color that looks like it has been dipped in raspberry sauce. By contrast, the adult females are quite different, exhibiting a brown, drab color with a white moustache stripe. Young Purple Finches of both sexes resemble adult females. The males do not acquire a colored plumage until their 2nd breeding season. Purple Finches are common across the northern United States, southern and central Canada, and the west coast of North America. The Purple Finch lives primarily in coniferous woods and mixed forests as well as park-like areas.
According to the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), Purple Finches have experienced significant declines throughout their range in both the East and West since 1966 when the survey began. Reasons for the declines are unclear but may be partly explained by competition with introduced House Finches, House Sparrows, and other similar species. In aggressive encounters, the House Finch nearly always displaces the Purple Finch.
KBO’s regional long-term bird monitoring data also show declines in both breeding and migrating Purple Finch populations of the Klamath-Siskiyou Bioregion, corroborating the BBS data. Our research efforts have identified oak woodland restoration efforts that benefit Purple Finches. This information is being used for conservation planning efforts in southern Oregon and northern California that are intended to help managers meet continental and regional conservation objectives to reverse Purple Finch population declines.
Birds of Oregon edited by D.B. Marshall, M.G. Hunter, & A.L. Contreras; The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by D.A. Sibley; The Birds of North America by G.R. Geupel and G. Ballard