Are purple finches purple? And does a house finch live in the house? Because bird names often describe their look or characteristics, you may not be wrong to think that a purple finch is purple. However, this isn’t the case. Both the purple and house finch have red and brown plumage. Their similarities in looks make it even harder to tell them apart.
One of the ways to know the difference between a purple finch and a house finch is in their color patterns, beak, and tail shape. If you’re an amateur bird watcher and want to identify these beautiful birds quickly, keep reading.
How You Can Tell The Differences Between a House Finch and a Purple Finch
Like the hummingbird, house finch and purple finch are very popular amongst those who like to keep bird feeders in their backyard. However, most people who own these feeders have reportedly had difficulty telling both birds apart.
People struggle to tell these two birds apart because they both have bright red and brown plumage. However, there are some ways to tell the difference between a house finch and a purple finch. We will list some ways to tell them apart, starting with size.
The Size Difference Between a House Finch and a Purple Finch
Look at their size if you are having trouble differentiating between a house finch and a purple finch. A purple finch will be slightly larger than a house finch. The purple finch also has a wingspan of about ten inches.
Of course, if you are keeping a bird feeder in your backyard, you may not be able to catch these birds and measure their wingspan. However, you can differentiate between them by just keeping an eye out for their size.
A purple finch has a stocky build. They also have big heads and necks. Their head and neck are enormous compared to their body size. So, when you see two birds with bright brown and red plumage flying around your backyard feeders, the one with a big head and neck is probably the purple finch.
The purple finch measures about 4-6.3 inches in length, weighing around 0.6 to 1.1 inches. Of course, by now, you know that house finches are smaller than purple finch. They have a wingspan of about 9.5 inches and reach lengths of 5 to 6 inches. The house finch weighs about 0.5 to 0.95 inches.
House Finch and Purple Finch: Differences In Habitat
The house finch and purple finch may occasionally range in the same areas, but that doesn’t mean they share similar habitats. You see, house finches will prefer to live in urban and suburban areas. They are also not beyond living in deserts, grasslands, and coniferous forests.
Purple finches don’t like all the noise associated with urban areas, so they prefer to live in regions that aren’t very populated. You will find purple finches in coniferous forests and mixed forests. Unfortunately, when the range of these two birds overlaps, purple finches are most likely to lose out. This has caused the population of purple finches to decline over time.
Differences Between House Finch And Purple Finch Bill
The house finch and purple finch have different bills. They both eat seeds and go on a herbivorous diet, but their bills differ. Through the shape of their bills, you can quickly tell the difference between a purple finch and a house finch. The bill of a house finch is small with a distinctive curve. The distinct curve is on the house finch’s upper mandible giving the bill a bulbous shape.
On the other hand, the bill of a purple finch is straight and lengthy compared to the curved bill of the house finch. The purple finch bill has a triangular shape.
Differences In House Finch and Purple Finch Color
Purple finches are not purple. A purple-finch male is red throughout the body. It also has a redhead with a brown wing. The females are brown and have white streaks on their bodies. The white mark above the purple finch’s eyes is very distinctive. So, when you place your feeder in your backyard, you can know which bird is using your feeder by looking out for the white mark.
The male house finch also has a red color. However, unlike the purple finch, which has a red color spread throughout its body, the male house finch’s red color is confined to its breasts, throat, and forehead.
The back of the male house finch is brown. The cheeks of the male house finch are gray. The female house finches are gray-brown. They also spot grayish-brown streaks on their undersides.
Differences In House Finch and Purple Finch Behavior
The behavior of a house finch and a purple finch is very different. This is one of the most reliable ways to differentiate between the two birds. Unlike blue jays, the house finch is very social, and they are not territorial. They like to stay in flocks. Their flocks can number between a few birds to a hundred.
When they are nesting, the house finch will stick close to one another and nest together. The females are the kings in the flock. They lord over the males and are at the top of their social hierarchy.
On the contrary, purple finches don’t usually stay in flocks. They only flock together during the winter. They are solitary and territorial. When they flock together during the winter, purple finches can number in communities of 200, which includes other species of finches.
When it is breeding season, the purple finch will become very territorial. So, don’t be surprised when you see a lone purple finch during the summer. They aren’t bored or lonely; they just like to be alone.
Differences In House Finch and Purple Finch Tail
The tail of a house finch is longer than that of a purple finch. The tail of a house finch will only show a faint notch that is usually not visible. The notch in purple finches’ is more apparent, and the tails are shorter.
When these birds perch, you may be able to identify them using the notch of their tails. However, it would help if you were an experienced bird watcher to notice the difference in their tails.
House Finch and Purple Finch: Which Is More Common?
The range of the house finch is quite extensive. They are widespread across most of North America. This includes Hawaii. Purple finches usually nest in Canada along the Pacific. They will also nest in the North East of Canada. During the winter, the purple finch will migrate as far as Florida.
It is estimated that there are currently around 267 million to 1.7 billion house finches worldwide. On the other hand, it is estimated that there are about 6.5 million purple finches in the world.
House Finch and Purple Finch: Differences In Calls And Vocalization
House finches have a chirping call. Purple finches have a warble-like call. The warble call of the purple finch is soft and calm. However, the chirp of the house finch can be high one second and go low the next.
The song of a house finch is short. It lasts for about one to four seconds. On the other hand, the song of a female purple finch lasts for about a minute or two. Unless you have a lot of experience with the calls of birds, you may have a hard time identifying the purple finch and house finch based on their call alone.