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Which finch?


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Though it doesn't look that much like a classic Purple Finch, something about it doesn't seem like a House Finch and I'm trying to figure out why. I think it's the lack of gray in the cheeks, the darker red cap, "expression" of the face (white curve under the eye (noted in Sibley), proportions of the face (large eye, large bill), dark rim around the eye giving a bit of a beady-eyed look) and that bright red on the back of the head and strong reddish streaking continuing in the back (which I can't recall seeing much in House Finch). I think the culmen might be exaggerated due to the angle. I personally think I'd call it a Purple Finch, but The Bird Nuts has good points too.

Edited by tedsandyman
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Looks like I've been out voted! Certainly a tricky bird, though I still would still call it a Purple Finch (could be wrong). However, follow the lead of science and go with the majority opinion if the single dissenting opinion isn't convincing. 🙂

About the back not having enough red, I agree it's on the low side. However, as you can see in these pictures (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/78551561, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/119954111), some birds can have very little to no clear red on the back or wingbars. 

In response to Charlie Spencer, my thoughts on the back (versus a House Finch) was more to do with the exact look (stronger / cleaner contrast with a diffuse red tinge to it, less gray). Hard to describe but it just seemed a little different than most House Finches I see, and closer to a Purple Finch.

Here's a Purple Finch with a similar face to the bird in question (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/58425561), where darker auriculars (which are usually helpful for separating them) aren't present. You can see the white crescent below / in front of the eyes, which I don't think I've ever seen on a House Finch (maybe they can have it--I don't know); also a pretty big honking bill, which I don't see much on HOFI.

You can also see the 'black eyed' look which I seem to usually see on Purple Finches (and often helps separate them from the even trickier Cassin's Finch). On the other hand, House Finches usually have a lighter rim around the eye (e.g. https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/129112861) that makes them a little more "expressive" (to my simian brain anyway).

Again, a tricky bird. For kicks, here's another tricky bird (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/103565701) reported as a PUFI that'd I'd personally just call a finch sp.

Edited by tedsandyman
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55 minutes ago, tedsandyman said:

However, as you can see in these pictures (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/78551561, https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/119954111), some birds can have very little to no clear red on the back or wingbars. 

Yes their wingbars aren't as red as the head and they're not supposed to be, but they're clearly tinted red.

36 minutes ago, tedsandyman said:

For kicks, here's another tricky bird (https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/103565701) reported as a PUFI that'd I'd personally just call a finch sp.

That bird is misidentified.  It is a House Finch and I have reported it to the reviewer(s).  Besides the curved culmen and other marks we've talked about, also note the primary projection and tail length which can be clearly seen in that photo.

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I would say the wingbars in those photos are slightly tinted buff or orange, not really red, but we have different monitors so it's hard to have an objective baseline. I agree that the grayish tones in the wings in the OP bird are unusual for a male PUFI. However, I don't know if it can categorically be said that a young male bird getting its red (could well be the case for a bird in May) couldn't have off-white wingbars. Younger female-looking males can (example of something approaching that https://macaulaylibrary.org/asset/58270651).

Looking at it again, I agree the "tricky" Macaulay bird I linked above should be a HOFI, if nothing else due to the structure (tiny head) and the bill (short in addition to being strongly curved). Face pattern and red in back (though not highly contrasting) was a little interesting. Wing length / projection is also a good point, though looks like they can come pretty close (and PUFI are considered to have short primary projections compared to CAFI... never found that particularly useful).

Edited by tedsandyman
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Also, apologies for flooding the forum with probably over-analysis, but I wanted to mention Eastern / Western Purple Finches are a bit different. Checked Sibley and it says "Pacific birds average slightly rounder-winged with shorter primary projection and are longer-tailed with more curved culmen than Eastern (tending toward House Finch in shape)." Not sure if Western / Pacific birds ever make it out East, but Eastern ones certainly do make it out west (females are especially hard to tell apart from Cassin's Finch).

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