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Purple Finch in Utah?

posted by Tim Avery at
on Wednesday, March 16, 2011 

On Tuesday morning as I stumbled into the living room still half asleep I took a quick glance out the windows and noticed that there were a group of Cassin's Finches feeding below the feeders. I grabbed my camera and returned and as soon as I had the 4 birds on the ground in my view finder I noticed one didn't look quite right. For starters it was covered in a yellow-green wash; it lacked any eye-ring or partial eye-ring; the bill appeared to have a curved culmen, and was shorter than would be expected (in comparison) on Cassin's Finches; and it had blurry streaks over most of its body.

One of the first shots, with the presumed Purple Finch on the left
and the Cassin's Finch on the right.

Needless to say it wasn't a typical Cassin's Finch. I have always looked for Purple Finch in Utah and began to think this individual might be a western/Pacific form of the Purple Finch. I moved to my office and set up my camera to get "better" pictures. The birds flew off but returned shortly after with the "odd-ball" continuing to feed on the ground alongside Cassin's and House Finches. The light wasn't great but I got a couple of okay shots with the flash.

Presumed Purple Finch in front of a House Finch.

I sent the pictures to ID Frontiers to get some opinions, and got mixed responses (as often with ID Frontiers)--some for and some against Purple Finch. I think the one thing that I always find amusing when I receive comments like, "I wouldn't have looked at this bird twice.." or "this is without a doubt..." or "there is no reason this isn't...". I find it amusing because why would I bother asking for opinions if there wasn't something odd about the bird. In the case of this individual it had a mixed bag of odd fieldmarks separate from the common counterpart found in Utah (Cassin's Finch). It's only when the field guides and available resources come up short that I find it valuable to get the opinions of what are an incredibly talented (mostly)group of birders.

Presumed Purple Finch behind a House Finch.

Anyways, I am throwing these pictures and this information up here in case anyone wants to comment. I will add some comments from others below tomorrow to go along with my post.

Click here to see more photos of this bird.

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2 Comments:
Blogger Ryan O'Donnell said...

I think this is a first-year male Cassin's Finch. I remember being tricked by one of these a couple of springs ago. This time of year, the young males don't yet have the red of the adults but they show this orangy-greenish tint, unlike the females which are a more pure brown and white. Here are a couple shots of a similar bird, photographed in my yard on 9 Apr 2008.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsirtalis/5551770730/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tsirtalis/5551186289/

March 22, 2011 at 6:20 PM  
Blogger Ryan O'Donnell said...

Here are a couple of links that might be helpful for this bird and any other mystery Carpodacus in Utah:
http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/03/distinguishing-the-subspecies-of-purple-finch/
http://www.sibleyguides.com/bird-info/purple-finch/supplementary-info-on-purple-finch/

March 24, 2011 at 4:19 PM  

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