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Number of species: 82

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Purple Finch - Haemorhous purpureus

Purple Finch has a partial preformative molt and limited prealternate molts that are restricted to body feathers and difficult to detect. Although ""purple"" DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) Purple Finches are easy to recognize as males, determining age and sex of ""brown"" individuals is more challenging, with extent of skull development the most reliable indicator of age until early-mid November. Sex of most FCU (SY) birds can only be determined by brood patch or cloacal protuberance.

Quick tips

  • Look at the overall appearance - only DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) males have extensive reddish-purple plumage, while some FCF/FCU (HY/SY) males may have a hint of red, but most of them and all females are entirely brown and whitish.
  • Look at the outer rectrices - they are narrow and relatively pointed at the tip on FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds, and tend to be more broad and relatively rounded on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds, but shape is often intermediate and unhelpful.
  • Examine the greater coverts - on some FCF/FCU (HY/SY) birds there is a subtle difference between darker replaced inner greater coverts and slightly paler primary coverts and often also the outer greater coverts; DCB/DCU (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 (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - September)
Dull brownish overall, heavily streaked across entire underparts
U
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
FCF - (HY: August - December; SY January - April)
Rectrices sometimes fairly narrow and pointed; sometimes a contrast among the greater coverts with inner feathers darker; entirely brown and whitish, although occasionally males can be distinguished if they have some reddish feathers
U
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
FCU - (SY: March - September)
Rectrices sometimes fairly narrow and pointed; sometimes a contrast among the greater coverts with inner feathers darker; entirely brown and whitish, although occasionally males can be distinguished if they have some reddish feathers
U
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
DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - April)
Rectrices usually fairly broad and rounded; greater coverts uniformly dark brown (F) or purple-edged (M), contrasting only slightly with primary coverts and secondaries; entirely brown and whitish (F) or upperparts and breast heavily washed reddish-purple (M)
M
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
F
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
DCU - (ASY: March - September)
Rectrices usually fairly broad and rounded; greater coverts uniformly dark brown (F) or purple-edged (M), contrasting only slightly with primary coverts and secondaries; entirely brown and whitish (F) or upperparts and breast heavily washed reddish-purple (M)
M
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

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - September)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: August - October)
Similar to FCF; some to all median coverts, and some to all greater coverts being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (SY: March - April)
Similar to FCA, with some body feathers being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - September)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brown and quite worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - October)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (generally dark and less worn) or intermediate
No images available yet
DPA - (ASY: March - April)
Similar to DCA, with some throat and head feathers being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U August - October Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY August - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY March - April Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCU / UCU (FCU, DCU) AHY March - September In formative, basic, or alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle and plumage are not reliably distinguishable

Number of species: 82

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