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Number of species: 72

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Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus

While ""purple"" AHY/ASY Purple Finches are easy to recognize as males, determining age and sex of the remaining ""brown"" individuals is more difficult, especially if relying just on plumage.  The most reliable method for ageing in fall is to check skull development, and sex of most SY birds can only be determined in the hand by detecting a brood patch or cloacal protuberance

Quick Tips:

  • Look at the overall appearance - only AHY/ASY males have extensive reddish-purple plumage, while SY males may have a hint of red; HY males, some SY males, and all females lack reddish-purple plumage
  • Look at the outer rectrices - they are narrow and relatively pointed at the tip on HY/SY birds, and broad and relatively rounded on AHY/ASY birds
  • Examine the greater coverts - on some HY/SY birds there is a visible molt limit either among the greater coverts or between the greater and primary coverts, but it can be subtle; AHY/ASY birds lack a molt limit, but beware that at all ages the greater coverts appear at least slightly darker than the rest of the wing

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Juvenile / Unknown
Largely brown with some streaking, especially on throat
Thumbnail - MG2-2321-18856-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3408.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-18856-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3410.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-18856-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3409.jpg
Hatch year / Unknown
Plumage brown and white; molt limit among greater coverts or between greater and primary coverts (often subtle); rectrices relatively narrow and pointed
Thumbnail - MG2-2030-67512-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3404.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2030-67512-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3402.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2030-67512-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3403.jpg
After hatch year / Male
Upper breast, head, back, and wings washed with red/purple
Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82125-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3395.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82125-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3393.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-82125-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3394.jpg
After hatch year / Female
Plumage brown and white; distinguished from HY males and females by darker and more uniform wing and broader rectrices
Thumbnail - MG2-2321-17999-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3401.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-17999-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3399.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2321-17999-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3400.jpg
Second year / Unknown
Plumage brown and white; molt limits on the wing may be visible (but often indistinct); wing may show a fair amount of wear (especially the tertials); rectrices narrow and often quite pointed
Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97286-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3386.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97286-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3384.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2401-97286-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3385.jpg
After second year / Male
Upper breast, head, back, and wings washed with red/purple
Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20754-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3380.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20754-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3378.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2221-20754-Carpodacus_purpureus_AOU_7_52-3379.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
Second year / Male Plumage mostly brown and white but with at least some red; molt limits on the wing may be visible (but often indistinct); wing may show a fair amount of wear (especially the tertials); rectrices narrow and often quite pointed
After second year / Female Plumage brown and white; rectrices fairly broad; no molt limit on wing
Number of species: 72

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