4-B-2017 Purple Finch

STATUS
Accepted
DATE VOTING COMPLETED
1ST ROUND
7-0
HOW MANY OBSERVED?
1 adult male; ssp. “Pacific” (H.p. californicus)?
DATE SIGHTING OCCURRED
DATE REPORT PREPARED
REPORTER
Doug Ward
OTHER OBSERVERS
Karen Riedel-Ward
LOCALITY OF OBSERVATION
Hayden, Kootenai Co., ID
8362 Selkirk Ct.
Hayden, ID 83835
HABITAT WHERE THE BIRD WAS OBSERVED
Suburban with both native, semi-dry Douglas Fir/Ponderosa forest with various ornamental deciduous & coniferous vegetation
SIGHTING DURATION, CONDITIONS, and EQUIPMENT USED
Feeding on tray bird feeder just outside window (~2m/6-7ft) in good light. Observed with naked eye and 8X40 binoculars. Only present on feeder for 1-2 minutes (excellent views), then in trees above for additional couple of minutes (obscured views). Did not hear call.
DID YOU TAKE NOTES?
Yes, later the same day
DID YOU CONSULT A FIELD GUIDE OR OTHER REFERENCE WORK?
Yes, later the same day
WHICH GUIDE(S) OR REFERENCE(S): DID YOU CONSULT?
1) “The Sibley Guide to Birds – Second Edition”; Sibley; 2014
2) “A Field Guide to Advanced Birding”; Kaufman; 1990
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIRD(s)
Haemorhous finch feeding on tray feeder. Several House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) present for good size and structural comparison.

Plumage: Adult male based on extensive “wine” coloration (dark pink with brownish hue – chocolate chunk raspberry ice cream a perfect comparison). Head: Entire head “wine” colored, being brightest on the forehead and crown, grading to darker “wine” on the back of the head without sharp demarcation on the nape. In addition it showed a fairly well defined brownish “wine” auricular patch and malar stripe. Upperparts: Back and wings were medium brown with a strong wash of “wine” color. The back was indistinctly streaked with darker brownish-“wine”, similar in color to the auricular patch. Wings did not show very distinctive pale covert edging, rather muted paler edges. The rump was clear “wine” color; similar to the brightest parts of the head. Tail was brown. Underparts: Throat, breast, and flanks were clean dark pink to “wine” with only a few dark, indistinct “wine” colored streaks along the flanks. No real contrast with general head coloration. Belly and undertail coverts were clean, snowy white.

Bill / Feet / Eye Color: Bill and legs were grey, and the eye appeared brown.

Structure: Stocky,relatively short tailed/winged finch with a large head and short, conical bill. Specifically, the bill was as deep as it was long giving a triangular profile; upper and lower mandibles were about equivalent in size. The culman was straight with a slight downward curve towards tip. In comparison with the House Finches present, this bird was maybe a little longer, but was much heavier in appearance with a disproportionately large head and shorter, wider notched tail. Wings reached to just the rump/undertail coverts with a relatively short primary projection.
BEHAVIOR OF THE BIRD(s)
Feeding alone on sunflower seeds at a tray feeder. Flew up to a couple of perches in trees above, but not active.
HOW AND WHEN DID YOU POSITIVELY IDENTIFY THE BIRD, AND WHAT CLINCHED THE IDENTIFICATION FOR YOU?
Since so unexpected, took a moment to realize it wasn't a bright House Finch (H. mexicanus). Once I "woke up", obvious identification based on large head, short thick bill, and generally uniform "wine" coloration with snowy white undertail coverts.
HOW DID YOU ELIMINATE SIMILAR SPECIES? WHAT WERE THEY?
As this species was completely unexpected, it took a “double-take” before I realized it wasn’t a bright House Finch. Structure and general coloration were immediately recognizable as a Haemorhous finch, so will compare to the other two (2) expected species from this group, Cassin’s Finch (H. cassinii) and House Finch (H. mexicanus).


Cassin’s Finch (H. cassinii) is most likely to be confused with a Purple Finch (H. purpureus) due general size and coloration, particularly considering the white undertail coverts. This bird was extensively “wine” colored compared to the mostly brown, grey, and white of the Cassin’s. This was particularly noticeable around the head and breast of this bird which were relatively uniform “wine” color whereas Cassin’s typically show a pink throat and chest which contrast with the bright pink/magenta, well demarcated crown, and pale face and nape. From a structural standpoint, the bill of this bird was noticeably stubby and conical (length = height) in comparison to the typical Cassin’s which show a longer, more pointed bill (length > height). While the culman on this bird was fairly straight, a trait sometimes reserved in separating Cassin’s, the culman did curve slightly downward near the tip, and in general did not give the almost upturned looking bill of the Cassin’s. The head and chest seemed disproportionately heavy, and the wings short in comparison to a Cassin’s from my experience.


House Finch (H. mexicanus) was eliminated based on this bird’s clean white belly and undertail coverts. In addition, the general structure in direct comparison – large body and head, large bill, and short, wide tail - further separate this species.


Subspecies Note: “Muddy” streaking on mantle and flanks, as well as muted covert and tertial edging on wings, led me to believe this individual may have been from the “Pacific” population (H.p. californicus).
WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS (AND SIMILAR) SPECIES?
I have seen several "Eastern" Purple Finches (H.p. purpureus) in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Colorado. I've seen "Pacific" Purple Finches (H.p. californicus) in California and Washington. This was my first in Idaho.
DESCRIBE YOUR GENERAL BIRDING EXPERIENCE
I've been birding for 40+ years and consider myself "experienced".
WERE PHOTO(S), VIDEO, AND/OR AUDIO OBTAINED FROM THIS SIGHTING?
None

FIRST ROUND VOTING:

Cliff Weisse
Accept

Description supports the identification of Purple Finch.

Jay Carlisle
Accept

Key fieldmarks described

Shirley Sturts
Accept

Well described and similar House and Cassin's Finch eliminated

Darren Clark
Accept

Great description eliminated similar finch species.

Dave Trochlell
Accept

The report was convincing to me. It differentiated this bird from the more-expected Cassin's and House Finches.

Carl Lundblad
Accept

Excellent and detailed description by an experienced observer. Covers structure (important in this group) and plumage and hits all the major points required to eliminate the local congeners. This species is (or is becoming) near-annual in north Idaho.

Steve Butterworth
Accept

Description and elimination of similar species confirm Purple Finch.