The courtship of Purple Finches is one of the most gentle and appealing mating rituals in the Rockies. The liquid warbling song of the male bubbles through conifer boughs, announcing his intentions to receptive mates. When a female approaches, the colorful male dances lightly around her, quickly beating his wings until he gently lifts off the ground. Their gentle nature and simple but stunning plumage endear Purple Finches to naturalists. They are a blessing, especially during winter, for their habit of offering a song to the crisp winter air. Purple (purpureus) is simply too harsh a description of this bird's delicate color. Roger Tory Peterson said it best when he described the the Purple Finch as a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.
I.D.: Male: light bill; raspberry-red head, throat, breast and nape; brown- and reddish-streaked back and flanks; reddish-brown cheek; red rump; notched tail; light belly; brown wings and tail; unstreaked undertail coverts. Female: dark brown cheek and 'jaw' line; white eyebrow and 'drool'; heavily streaked underparts; unstreaked undertail coverts.
Size: L 51/4-6 in. (13-15 cm).
Range: common spring migrant and uncommon summer resident in the Canadian Rockies.
Habitat: pine, spruce and mixed forests and townsites in the montane and the lower subalpine.
Nesting: typically across southern Canada and the northeastern U.S. and along the Pacific coast; in a conifer, far from the trunk; tight cup nest is woven with twigs, grass, moss, lichens and fur; female incubates 4-5 eggs for 13 days.
Feeding: gleans the ground and vegetation for seeds, buds, berries and insects; readily visits feeding stations.
Voice: song is a bubbly, continuous warble; call is a single cheep or weet.
Similar Species: House Finch: squared tail; male lacks the reddish cap; female lacks the distinct cheek patch. Cassin's Finch: male has a brown nape and lightly streaked, brown flanks; female lacks the distinct cheek patch and has streaked undertail coverts.