Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Purple Finch Time

Purple Finch Carpodacus purpureus
I love waking in the morning to the song of the Purple Finch. These finches are only visitors in our neighborhood but they brighten our lives for a few weeks each spring and fall while they are here.
John James Audubon wrote and interesting account of purple finch behavior: “They fly compactly, with an undulating motion, similar to that of the Common Greenfinch of Europe. They alight all at once, and after a moment of rest, and as if frightened, all take to wing again, make a circuit of no great extent, and return to the tree from which they had thus started, or settle upon one near it. Immediately after this, every individual is seen making its way toward the extremities of the branches, husking the buds with great tact, and eating their internal portion. In doing this, they hang like so many Titmice, or stretch out their necks to reach the buds below. Although they are quite friendly among themselves during their flight, or while sitting without looking after food, yet, when they are feeding, the moment one goes near another, it is strenuously warned to keep off by certain unequivocal marks of displeasure, such as the erection of the feathers of the head and the opening of the mouth. Should this intimation be disregarded, the stronger or more daring, of the two drives off the other to a different part of the tree. They feed in this manner principally in the morning, and afterwards retire to the interior of the woods. Towards sunset they reappear, fly about the skirts of the fields and along the woods, until, having made choice of a tree, they alight, and, as soon as each bird has chosen a situation, stand still, look about them, plume themselves, and make short sallies after flies and other insects, but without interfering with each other. "
Edwin Way Teale in his book, The American Seasons, recounts the unknowing role that Purple Finches played in the life of another outstanding pioneer ornithologist: In the mid 1800’s young Robert Ridgway used a muzzle-loading shotgun that his father had salvaged and rebuilt from a sunken river steamer to collect specimens of beautiful birds he had never seen before. Not knowing anything about taxidermy, Robert preserved the images of his specimens by painting pictures of them. At the suggestion of a friend, he sent the pictures off to Washington seeking identification of the birds. This innocent inquiry and the remarkable skill his paintings of the purple finches displayed, ultimately led to a lifelong carrier at the Smithsonian Institution during which he published more than 13,000 pages of materials on birds.


Blogger Pam in Tucson said...

Aren't they lovely? - the female as striking in her own striped way as the male in his rosy plumage. Our little House Finches pale in comparison, sweet as they are. Thank you for including the quotes. Fun to read the Audubon piece and imagine you watching this behaviour in your visitors. Enjoy them while they're with you! You've portrayed them wonderfully.

1:33 AM  
Blogger kerrdelune said...

It has been years since these beautiful little finches made an appearance here, and it was lovely to see them here and remember their visitations in years past. Thank you!

6:45 AM  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

Thank you for your beautiful posts. I really enjoy reading the poetry and the other descriptions - beautiful work. The finches in this post are adorable; you have really captured their character for someone like me who has never seen them.
I also enjoyed the photos of the mayflowers in another post.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Cynthia E. Bagley said...

I really love those finches. They are so much fun to watch and your pics are beautiful. :-)

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh I love the little pale red bird. So fragile looking yet so strong. We have a great number of birds around where I love. I wish I knew all of their names.
Beautiful post!

10:54 AM  
Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Aren't you glad that we have found ways to enjoy birds other than shooting them out of the sky.
I'm envious of your lovely Purple finches. Here in our part of Ohio, they are only rare visitors.
Great photos!

11:59 AM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

We don't see the purple finch here much. They are often displaced by the house finch. I've read that it's hard to make the identification between purple finch and house finch, so it may be that we really do see more of them than we think. Some of the finches on our feeder are definitely rosier than others!

1:57 PM  
Blogger harmonyinline said...

They are such lovely birds

1:14 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

This is so interesting, Endment. How fortunate you are to see these beautiful little birds if only for a short while. I am familiar with their European cousin, the Greenfinch, but I think the colouring on these is extraordinary. Gorgeous.

8:49 AM  
Blogger HoBess said...

These guys are just beautiful ... and I love the story of Robert Ridgway. A life changed by the courage to ask a simple question. We can all learn from that. Have beautiful spring weekend!

10:34 AM  
Blogger BT3 said...

Great P-finch images! I love it when they come back through SE Ohio in the spring. Their songs are so ardently cheerful.
Happy Spring!

12:22 PM  
Blogger Pris said...

oh these are wonderful!! I've never seen one. You're so lucky.

7:51 PM  
Anonymous homebird said...

Excellent photos of the purples, and great information, too! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I'm hoping for purples during migration here in the pinelands, but so far just house finches. I used to find them in the mountains in Maryland (hills to Californians and other westerners), but there are no mountains or even hills here, so I may not get them at all. So your lovely post is all the more appreciated, as it may be the best view I get of these birds this year.

11:09 PM  
Blogger tai haku said...

Very nice pictures, how many visit you aat a time?

3:25 PM  
Blogger Endment said...

pam in tucson
purple finches are lovely! The females are a lot like the female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks who will arrive soon... I love to have all of them come.

glad to awaken good memories

glad you enjoy the poetry and to be able to introduce you to the Purple Finch.

cynthia e. bagley
Aren't finches fun. They seem a bit more socable- almost willing to pose for their pictures.

Learning the names comes one kind of bird at a time, you probably know a lot more birds than you think. Keep watching and enjoy them.

Susan K. Williams
Cameras are wonderful. I am delighted that "the birds fly away after being shot"

rexroth's daughter
When I lived in the southwest I thought I might be seeing Purple Finches but once I came to the east - I discovered there are lots of differences. I doubt you would confuse the males once you are around them - the females are a different story :)

I love their bright colors.

thanks - how I would love to see the greenfinch - perhaps someday.

I am a sucker for stories about people who make a place for themselves doing something they love. :)

thanks. you have found a perfect phrase "Their songs are so ardently cheerful."

I am lucky to live here in the woods. It is a wonderful change from the city :)

hope you see your purples --- it is hard to comppare Bear Mountain with Mount Whitney :)

tai haku
good question - I counted about a dozen males just now and the flock fluxuates from day-to-day - love your site by-the-way!

6:40 AM  
Blogger threecollie said...

How perfect that I stopped here today. Our resident purple finches showed up at the feeder for the first time this year. Last year they brought their babies in to the feeder and tried like the dickens to leave them there. Didn't work

3:46 PM  

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