Carpoedacus purpureus

By Christine Stewart

The Purple Finch can be see throughout the eastern United States, but mostly in open woodlands and coniferous forests. Carpoedacus purpureus is the birds’ scientific name which means, "purple fruit eater", but fruit is not the only part of its diet. The finch also will snack on seeds, blossoms and buds from trees during the winter and spring. Insects and fruit are added during the early spring and summer because of their abundance, but ragweed seems to be the finch’s favorite food to eat. Farmers consider the bird to be destructive because they sometimes are predators on their peach and pear trees.

Purple Finches are not really purple at all, in fact the bird has more of a crimson hue on its head and neck, its belly is a rose color and it has streaks of brown on its back. Their size ranges from five and one half inches to six inches and their wings spread approximately nine inches. The finch’s bill is somewhat short, thick, conical and heavy.

The female starts in May with her nesting and continues through July, producing about two broods of eggs during this time. The cup-shaped nest consists of twigs, grasses and bark and is lined with hair and fine grasses. The female lays about four to five pale blue eggs marked with brown and black specks, which incubate for thirteen days. The young finches leave the nest at about fourteen days old. During courtship the male will sing energetically, flutter his wings, and puff out his chest to attract females. The male and female finches attend to the eggs and babies equally until the young finches are ready to leave the nest.

The Purple Finch is extremely friendly and easily tamable. The bird will compete for food at bird feeders, it will lean forward and raise the feathers in the top of its head, open its bill and add threat by flicking its wings and tail to scare away other birds. You are more likely to see the finch at your bird feeder during the winter when their favorite trees have fewer seeds.

Written fall 2000, as a service learning project for Dr. Gary Coté's Biology 102 class at Radford University. Copyright Pathways for Radford.

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