Yesterday I was fortunate enough to film a female Purple Finch at the platform feeder in the Pond Meadow. You can read about that HERE. While this is a year when it was more possible than other years, it was still an unlikely event for a Purple Finch to show up in my neck of the woods. I was excited to get some great photos of the bird. But, the Purple Finch is a sexually dimorphic species – meaning that the male and females have physical differences. In birds, this usually means that the males are more colorful. That’s the case in the Purple Finch. While the bird I filmed was beautiful, she wasn’t even close to the vivid coloring of her male counterpart.
Today, before the anticipated winter storm arrives, I went out to load up the feeder (because, in single-digit temperatures, I don’t plan to go outdoors.) Of course, I took my camera. Clearly, I was hoping that the female Purple Finch that I saw yesterday would still be around. More so, I hoped that she might bring along a boyfriend.
Within a few minutes, a female Purple Finch landed in a small tree adjacent to the feeder. However, I was fairly certain it was not the same bird that I saw yesterday. This bird seemed larger and darker in color.
I’ll call this one “Female #1” because not long after she flew down to the feeder and began eating, a second female arrived (we’ll call that bird “Female #2”) Here’s a photo of her.
Here’s a photo of the two of them – Female #2 is on the left, and Female #1 is on the right.
I texted my husband that I hadn’t yet seen a male Purple Finch, but there were now two females at the feeder. He replied, “wow.” I love how he supports my hobby.
The nice, sunny, calm weather began to change quickly. The wind began to blow down the back of my neck, the clouds took over the clear, blue sky and I decided to call it a day. When I got back to my desk and downloaded the images from my camera, I was pleased with several photos, including a male and female Cardinal, a Common Grackle (which I had not seen all winter), a Tufted Titmouse (which is hard to catch as they flit in and out very quickly), a White-crowned Sparrow, and a pretty Goldfinch.
The first couple of images of Purple Finch Female #1 didn’t seem unique. Although I understand that the birds aren’t going to just hang out with me if I don’t entice them with the goodies, I prefer to take photos of the birds in a more natural setting (like the branches of trees.) But, I was still pleased that I had captured another Purple Finch – as it was only the second one I had ever filmed – and even if she was perched on the feeder stuffing her face. I don’t blame her. She may even have some inkling that the weather is about to go really bad.
Wait! What’s that red spot under that bird’s chin? I hadn’t noticed it in the first few photos, although when I looked back I could clearly see a bit of crimson. Quickly, I used the vast power of the internet and learned, “The female Purple Finch has streaky brown-and-white plumage and a strong facial pattern, with none of the bright raspberry color of the male.” None is a pretty definite word.
Had I filmed a juvenile male Purple Finch? I continued to look at the images I had downloaded. While some were not clearly in focus (like the one where I was focused in on a Goldfinch while Female #1 was in the background), all of them showed some bit of red, and in many I could even see red on the wings. The final image that I reviewed showed obvious red on the back of the bird. That sealed the deal for me. But, I still defer to the experts and ask for a review and confirmation that it is, indeed “a boy!”
While I am no expert in bird development, I also noticed a yellow hue in the corner of the bird’s bill. I have seen that in young birds quite often. I suspect that is another clue to the bird’s age.
If I were the only individual capable of making this final decision – I would feel confident that this is, in fact, a juvenile male Purple Finch. But, I don’t have to make this determination on my own. I will simply send a link to this page to the real Birders and ask for a confirmation.