Return of the purple finch

I thought I saw a flash of red at the feeder yesterday. It was gone before I got to the window, and no where to be seen when I went outside to look. This morning, I heard them. They were singing from the tops of the cherry trees while the snow fell. It’s nice to see purple finches (Haemorhous purpureus) today, the first day of spring. The snow has changed to rain or a mix of snow and rain depending on the moment.

Purple finch

A male purple finch sits in a snowy hydrangea bush.

It’s unusual to not have purple finches at my feeders all winter. They’re on the list of birds that didn’t show up this year. They eat the seeds from conifer trees, and there was no shortage of cones so that’s not why they haven’t been here. They also eat seeds from maple and elm, berries and fruit, and flower seeds. When spring weather arrives and insects appear, they’ll feast on them. I’ve seen them catch grasshoppers and fly away with them.

These pretty medium sized birds are 4.7 to 6.3″ long according to All About Birds. They weigh .6 to 1.1 ounces.

Purple finches hatch two to seven pale green, brown-splotched eggs once or twice a year. I wonder if this will be a one-brood year because it seems spring is several weeks behind schedule. What do you think?

The female sits on the eggs for 12 to 13 days. The young finches leave the nest in about two weeks. The nest is four inches high and seven inches wide. Given their size it must get very crowded very quickly when there are up to seven young finches in there. Nests are two and a half to 60 feet off the ground. I’m sure it doesn’t turn out well for nestlings that fall from the higher end of that range.

It’s a toss up right now. Bears have been moving for the past two weeks. We should be taking our bird feeders in to avoid attracting them but who doesn’t want to see the birds as they return? I’m hoping for now that the new snow has sent the bears back to their dens for a bit longer.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.