Finches are Moving In!

Female purple finch

Theo Staengl

November 5th, 2020

This fall and winter, we’re expecting many more finches in the area because the pines in the northern states and Canada did not produce as many seeds as usual. Many finches eat pine seeds, so when there isn’t a good crop, they travel further south to look for food. Pine siskins (Spinus pinus) and purple finches (Haemorhous purpureus) are the most common finches coming unusually far south this year and  there are already hundreds of finches in our area. These finches like black oil sunflower seeds and other bird seed. If you have feeders, fill them up and keep watch for finches! A good way to tell purple finches from more common house finches is that female purple finches have white eye stripes and white below the beak. They are also much more heavily streaked on the breast. Male purple finches have a rosy pink color that extends almost all the way to their belly. Male purple finches have much less streaking on their breast than house finches. Several rare finches are also around, including evening grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus), which have started showing up all over Virginia, and Common redpolls, which are very rare and have been seen in Maryland. According to the Finch Research Network, evening grosbeaks are moving south in the largest numbers in twenty years. Drew Chaney has even seen a couple of evening grosbeaks at Greenbrier park in the center of urban Charlottesville.