There is a red and brown finch that lives year round and nests each summer in southern Ontario. It’s the House Finch, a western bird that has gradually spread across the east since it was introduced in 1940 to New York. The population expands and shrinks in Ontario depending on the severity of the winter and the losses due to certain diseases. In many parts of Ontario, however, another finch is more common. Peterson memorably described Purple Finch males as “dipped in raspberry juice” because they are a lovely purple pink red tone and far less brown than the House Finch.
What Finch Is That? The Joys of Migration Add a Challenge
In my usual haunts, Purple Finches don’t stay for the summer. Instead, they pass through during spring and fall migration. Only the House Finches nest in my closest parks. Still, I always give any finch I see a close look. I love the song of the House Finches and their cheerful plumage. And I like the odd colour of the Purple Finches when I get to see them.
On October 24 in 2016, I stopped near the downstream bridge over the creek in the Rattray Marsh conservation area. Cow Parsnip grows rampant in that area and tangled around it are Wild Cucumber, Riverbank Grape and some Thicket Creepers. Dogwood shrubs and a variety of wildflowers tangle together. Trees line the back and the creek’s mud bank lines one side. The varied habitat makes the area attractive to many types of birds and it’s worth stopping to see who is skulking, hunting or hiding.
I saw quite a large group of White-throated Sparrows working through the plants. A Winter Wren popped up and down. The resident Song Sparrows chased each other for short bursts. Then a lovely song began right in front of me: a male Purple Finch was perching on a Cow Parsnip stalk and singing in the autumn sunshine!
The bird put on a show for about 1 minute. Then, when a small flock of Goldfinches flew by, he darted up and joined them, flying swiftly off over the marsh. If I had arrived a minute later, I never would have seen this lovely visitor. I was very pleased that I arrived just in time!
Many days, I see one unusual thing on my walks. I’m not sure if I am paying attention till I find something perfect and then I’m tuning out other new experiences, or what. Whatever the reason, I really enjoy these small surprises, like a Purple Finch perched on a Parsnip.
- What Is This Red “Sparrow” At My Backyard Feeder?
- Goldfinch on Goldenrod
- Pine Siskins at J.C. Saddington
Do Purple Finches nest near you or do you have to wait till migration to catch a glimpse of them? Please share your experiences with a comment.