Thursday, December 11, 2008

Plume Zoom #2, answers revealed

Thanks again to all of you who participated in Plume Zoom #2. Lots of you got the answer correct - it was a female Purple Finch. I can totally understand the Pine Siskin guess, based on pictures I've seen of them, as well as the female House Finch. (NOTE: I've never seen Pine Siskin or House Finch in person - only in pictures.)

This girl had me running to my field guide, that's for sure. I knew I had seen and identified this bird once before, but once wasn't enough to reinforce the ID in my brain. In the midst of making out the identity of this lady, I wondered for a brief minute if it was a female Rose-Breasted Grosbeak. I thought the overall size of the bird seemed too small, and the size of the beak was certainly too small, but you run through all kind of possibilties when you just aren't sure. Here's a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak for comparison.

The main identifying characteristic of the female Purple Finch is that pale eyebrow/eyestripe that several of you mentioned. Also the dark streak in the cheek area is a good identifier. By contrast, the female House Finch (not pictured here) has a much plainer face, with no striping.

Just for fun, here's a male Purple Finch. Descriptions of these birds often go something like "a finch that looks like it's been dipped in grape juice."

A cool fact about the Purple Finch, as supplied by the Cornell Lab's Bird Guide: "The Purple Finch feeds on flowers by crushing the base to get the nectar and leaving the upper flower undamaged. In a similar action, it often feeds on the seeds of fruits rather than the pulp." Also for my west coast readers, there is apparently a Pacific Coast form of the Purple Finch that has a different wing shape and duller colors than the more "widespread" form.

One of you mentioned the tufting of the feathers on the head as an identifier. While I wasn't able to find any information specifically about this phenomenon, it is true that just about all of the pictures that I have ever captured of female Purple Finches do show raised head feathers. If anyone out there knows anything about this, please chime in.
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NW Nature Nut said...

Oh well....

I am ready for #3 now!

Shellmo said...

Interesting info on the finches! It has taken me a while to tell the difference between the house & purple.