Attracting Purple Finches to Your Yard

Thursday, November 9, 2023

 It's that time of year again when Purple Finches show up in larger numbers to grace us with their charm and beauty! These stunning finches are happy to become regular feeder visitors when the offerings are to their liking. Read below to learn how to attract Purple Finches to your yard and keep them coming all season long.

Purple Finch (male)

Offer their favourite foods
Purple Finches have a preference for smaller seeds such as nyjer and sunflower chips (Finch Blend is a favourite!), and will readily visit feeders that are stocked with fresh seed. Preferred feeder styles are finch & tube feeders, but they will happily perch on tray, hopper, or cylinder feeders as well. Finches can be quite gregarious at feeders, often fighting over perches and feeders. Providing multiple feeders can help decrease competition between them. Some Purple Finch favourites to grab at WBU include:
  • Finch Blend, Nyjer Seed, or Sunflower Chips
  • No-Mess Blends
  • Safflower seed (loose or in cylinder form)
  • Supreme Cylinder, Cranberry Cylinder, No-Mess Cylinder
  • Cranberry Wreath & Cranberry Bell

    Find all of these selections in store or online.

Provide fresh water
Birds rely on snow consumption and naturally open sources of water for hydration throughout the winter months. Open water is harder to come by when the temperature gets below freezing, and snow takes a lot of energy to convert to water, so having a reliable source of drinking water available can mean the difference between life or death for some birds when the weather gets particularly intolerable. Heated bird baths can be purchased as a single unit and are simple to attach to a pole system, deck railing, or on stand-alone poles, and are kept just above freezing by an internal heater that is not exposed to the birds. Alternatively, heaters are available to add to existing baths that are large enough to accommodate them. Either are great options to ensure your backyard birds have a supply of fresh water all winter long. You may be surprised by who you see at your heated bath - even owls have been known to frequent them!

Purple Finches (females) feeding on Safflower Cylinder

Clean your equipment often
In the winter, birds - especially finches - congregate at feeders in large numbers. When these large crowds gather and things they've touched aren't cleaned regularly, bacteria and illnesses can spread like wildfire. Be sure to sanitize your feeders once per month at the very least, and immediately after seeing a possibly unhealthy bird visit your feeding station, or if there has been particularly wet weather as it can cause seed to mold and spoil quickly. Some illnesses like House Finch Eye Disease and Avian Pox can be quite noticeable in birds, but some aren't as easily spotted so it's best to keep a tight cleaning schedule just to be safe. Keeping feeders clean also ensures food stays fresher longer, and extends the life of the feeders themselves. Click here for more information on bird illnesses and proper cleaning protocol. 

Create storm-ready habitat
Creating habitat that supports bird life in your yard year-round is the most crucial aspect of backyard birding. You can do this in several ways in addition to offering food & water, including planting and growing native plants that offer shelter as well as food (seeds, fruits), allowing dead trees to stand when safe to do so (creates shelter for cavity dwellers), creating brush piles with fallen branches, leaves, and rocks, and repurposing Christmas trees into extra shelter around your yard.

Left: Purple Finch (male); Right: House Finch (male)

Bonus tip! Male Purple Finches and male House Finches can be tough to tell apart at feeders, especially at a distance. Here are some tips to help you with identifying them at your feeders:

  • Colour: House Finches have reddish-orange colouring contentrated on the head and breast, while Purple Finches have reddish-purple or "raspberry" colouring which spreads to most of the body.
  • Head & body shape: House Finches are slender with large rounded heads; in general, Purple Finches are slightly larger than House Finches in overall size, and sport a slight crest at the top of their heads.
  • Beak: Both species have beaks designed for eating seeds, but House Finches have a smaller beak with a more distinct curve to the upper mandible, while Purple Finches have a more prominent beak with a less noticeable curve in the upper mandible.

Happy trails!
- Shayna

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