Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)

Photo by Chuck Heikkinen & Delia Unson Purple Finch by Chuck Heikkinen, Delia UnsonPurple Finch distribution map


Population Information

The Federal BBS information can be obtained at http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/bbs.html by clicking on Trend Estimates and selecting the species in question. All estimates are for time period (1966-2005).

Life History

Habitat Selection

The Purple Finch occurs in coniferous forests, mixed conifer-deciduous forests, riparian corridors, and bog edges (Wootton 1996). It nests in moist areas where balsam fir, white cedar, hemlock, spruce, and white pine are the dominant canopy species (Ewart 1991). Nests are generally placed on the horizontal branch of a conifer tree. This species also is tolerant of urban areas where it is a frequent visitor to bird feeders. It occasionally nests near rural farmsteads (Gostomski 2006), orchards, ornamental plantations, pastures and lawns with scattered conifers, and hedgerows (Wooten 1996). Although it is relatively plastic with its habitat use, the Purple Finch seems to prefer habitat with a conifer component (Niemi and Hanowski 1992).

Habitat Availability

The Purple Finch is widely distributed in Wisconsin. In summer, the Purple Finch is a common resident in the northern region of Wisconsin (Robbins 1991) and occurs primarily from Lake Superior south through Wood, Portage, and Waupaca counties (Gostomski 2006). In winter it occurs primarily in the central and southern regions of the state (Robbins 1991) but in some years may be found in significant numbers throughout northern Wisconsin as well. The Purple Finch seems to be relatively adaptable to landscape changes, which implies that abundant habitat is available within the state.

Population Concerns

Breeding Bird Survey data suggest a significant annual decline range-wide but there is little information regarding the causal factors of this decline. Interspecific competition with House Finch may has been implicated in its decline across eastern North America (Wooten 1996), but more study is needed. In Wisconsin the Purple Finch population appears to be increasing, although this trend is not statistically significant (Sauer et al. 2005). Robbins (1991) cites it as a fairly common resident in north and central Wisconsin where it was documented in nearly 15% of the quads surveyed by the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas (Gostomski 2006).

Recommended Management

Little research is available concerning the effects of timber management and land use practices on Purple Finches, particularly in the Great Lakes region. Thus, citing specific management prescriptions would be speculative. Conservation measures that protect existing coniferous forests in the northern half of the state will ensure suitable breeding habitat for this species.

Research Needs

Despite its widespread distribution, the Purple Finch is one of the least studied finches in North America. No formal biological studies have been conducted in Wisconsin, thus much remains to be learned about this species’ requirements. More information is needed on site and landscape-level features important to this species. Research that elucidates the effects of various forest management techniques would further conservation efforts. Finally, more research is needed into factors limiting this species, in particular interspecific competition with House Finch.

Information Sources


Contact Information

Kreitinger, K., Y. Steele and A. Paulios, editors. 2013.
The Wisconsin All-bird Conservation Plan, Version 2.0. Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Madison, WI.

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