05 April 2014

An Uncommon Visitor

I can get used to this working from home gig.  Nearly every day for the past two weeks I've watched Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fly past my office window, including one mature eagle at very close range flying up my driveway being chased by a blackbird.  Just a couple of days ago, we had another visitor that probably would have gone unnoticed had I not been working from home.
 

The chunky, brown, streaked body, conical beak, and bold white eyeline help to identify this bird as a female Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus).  We've only observed Purple Finch on our property a few times; this is the first female that we've seen.  In many bird species, the females are more difficult to identify because they are less colorful than the males and look similar to females of other species.  In the case of the Purple Finch, the male is definitely more colorful, appearing to have been "dipped in raspberry juice" according to famous American naturalist Roger Tory Peterson, but the female is actually more easily identified.  Male Purple Finches are often confused with male House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), but female Purple Finches are easily distinguished from female House Finches because of the white eyeline that the House Finch lacks.


Purple Finches are in northern Indiana only in winter; they spend their summers further north of here in moist, cool forests.  Their populations seem to be decreasing, and some think this may be a result of competition with the invasive House Finch.   

I can't wait to see what species I can add to our yard list working from home this spring once songbird migration is well underway.

2 comments:

Beth said...

In 12 years at our place, I've seen a purple finch exactly once. I was watching birds at the feeder and thought, "Boy, that's sure a bright house finch. Wait a minute...the top of his head is red! It's a purple finch!" It was quite exciting!

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