David Sibley’s regular column “ID Toolkit” is a popular part of every issue of Birdwatching. In our November-December 2016 issue, he gives tips for identifying Purple Finch and House Finch.
The finch above is a male Purple Finch. Photographer Teri Franzen spotted it in an oak tree in early March 2013. As you can see, it isn’t purple; it’s rose-red. And the color is extensive, washing from the head onto the back and the throat and breast, and blending seamlessly onto the flanks.
A reliable way to distinguish Purple Finches from House Finches, Sibley writes in our November-December 2016 issue, is to look for a slight peak or triangular crest on the head of Purple Finches. You can see this in Teri Franzen’s photo at top, and on the head of the male above, photographed in Salem, Oregon, by Gary Miller.