Friday, August 1, 2014 · 11:55 a.m.

Riverwalk Bird of the Week: Purple finch

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The purple finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a "sparrow dipped in raspberry juice." (Photo: Dick Schier)

The folks in the Riverwalk Bird Club don't just watch birds. The group includes some excellent photographers.

Nooga.com Outdoors is happy to share their great photos by featuring a Bird of the Week.

This week we feature a purple finch, taken by Dick Schier.

Interesting facts
—The purple finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a "sparrow dipped in raspberry juice." For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast. Separating them from house finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests, too, where you’re likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees.

—The purple finch uses its big beak and tongue to crush seeds and extract the nut. They do a similar trick to get at nectar without eating an entire flower and also to get to a seed buried inside a fleshy fruit.

—Purple finches seem to be losing numbers in eastern North America as house finches have moved in after being brought to New York City in the 1950s. One study of finch behavior found that purple finches lost out to house finches more than 95 percent of the times the two birds encountered each other.

—Into their rich warbling songs, purple finches sometimes add in the sounds of other species, including barn swallows, American goldfinches, eastern towhees and brown-headed cowbirds.

—Birds that eat fruits are doing plants a favor by distributing their seeds later on. But finches eat the seeds themselves. Though they may not look the part, finches are predators. From a seed's point of view, these birds' hefty beaks mark the end of the line.

—The oldest recorded purple finch lived to be 11 years, 9 months old.

This information is courtesy of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. 

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