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Purple Finch

Purple finch Carpodacus purpureus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 5.5 inches
  • Large, conical bill
  • Short, forked tail
  • Distinctive call note often given in flight


  • Purplish-red head, breast, back and rump
  • Streaked back
  • White undertail coverts
  • Brown wings and tail
  • Immature male resembles female


  • Brown crown and cheek patch contrasting with pale supercilium and malar streak
  • Heavily streaked underparts
  • Brown upperparts

Similar species:

The male Purple Finch is similar to the House Finch but lacks brown streaks on the breast and belly, has a more purple head, shorter forked tail and different call notes. Female House Finch lacks the distinctive face pattern of the female Purple Finch. Cassin's Finch is very similar in all plumages but has streaked undertail coverts and a larger bill. Male Cassin's has a brighter red crown. Female Cassin's has finer streaking on the breast and a less noticeable face pattern. Pine Siskin is similar to female but smaller and lacks face pattern. Sparrows are slimmer with longer tails and different markings.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Life History Groupings

Migration Status:Short distance migrant

Breeding Habitat:Woodland

Nest Location:Mid-story/canopy nesting

Nest Type:Open-cup

Clutch Size:3-5

Length of Incubation: 13 days

Days to Fledge:14

Number of Broods:1 in east, 2 in west


Almost Exclusively:

  • Flowers
  • Fruit
  • Seeds

Lesser Quantities of:

  • Insects

Gregory Gough
USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center

Clutch size, length of incubation, days to fledge and number of broods from: Ehrlich, P., Dobkin, D., and Wheye, D. (1988). The Birders Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc.


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