About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's the Difference Between a House Finch and a Purple Finch?

Male House FinchImage by quinet via FlickrHouse Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) are a familiar sight in mid-Michigan today. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or in trees, and their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around the bird feeders.

Female House FinchImage by quinet via FlickrThe House Finch was not always a local mid-Michigan bird. In 1940, they were illegally captured in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island in 1940. Since then the finches have spread to all corners of the east and have even rejoined their relatives in the west.

The amount of red the finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt. They have slight white wing bands, a brownish red head with a pink chest that has brown streaking. They also appear to have a sleek body and stand tall.

Purple finchImage by Doug Greenberg via FlickrPurple Finches (Carpodacus purpureus) are not really drawn to human dwellings, preferring wooded areas and nesting high up in conifer trees.

Carpodacus purpureus Purple Finch (female)Image by davidhofmann08 via FlickrThe males have a slight crest on their head and a lighter red above the eye and the females have a white eyebrow. The males’ chests are streaked with pink with very little brown. The Purple Finch is actually about 6” too but looks more compact or chubbier, with its legs bent close to the body.
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