Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)
By Averi Lohman, Conservation Technician, Houston Audubon
While not nearly as widespread as their relative the house finch, purple finches are a beautiful blip of pinkish red that occasionally visit our area and other parts of northeast Texas in the winter. These small birds have triangular beaks with sharper, more defined angles than those of house finches. Male purple finches also have a purer red color than male house finches, as they lack the deep brown striping on their sides that house finches have. In addition, female purple finches have more defined white facial stripes than house finches.
Purple finches prefer moist forested habitats for breeding, but will settle for generally forested areas as well. During the winter they become far less picky and can be found in shrubby or open field habitats in addition to forests. These birds readily come to feeders, so maintaining black oil sunflower seeds is a great way to attract them to your yard.
Like others in their family, purple finches primarily feed on the nuts of seeds. This prevents the seeds from spreading via feces like in other birds. Because of this similar diet, purple finches have struggled with the introduction of house finches into their range. When these birds meet, house finches regularly outcompete purple finches, which has caused the range of purple finches to shift north. However, purple finches are far from struggling with a total population of over 6 million birds. Even though the winter is almost over, keep an eye out! You might see one or two of these birds at your feeder.
Visit our Bird Gallery to read about other Texas birds!