As a follow-up to the Winter Finch Forecast and as a prelude to some really cool air coming into the area this weekend, here is a short discussion on how to identify the two most likely winter finches that may be seen.
This pine siskin shows the typical streaky plumage, strong wing bars and yellowish patches on the wings. This yellow may be very pronounced in some individuals and more muted in others. Photo by Jeff Lewis.
Seen with its close relative, the American goldfinch, the differences are apparent. The goldfinch has no streaking on the upper or lower sides. The two species often will occur together and have similar habits. The finch feeder stocked with niger seed will attract both species but sunflower seed feeders are just as attractive to them. Photo by Taylor Piephoff
Purple finches should looked for now as well. This typical female shows the dark cheek patch bordered by two whitish stripes, resulting in a strong facial pattern. Purple finches are larger, bulkier, and more "bull-necked" than the house finches that are permanent residents in our area. Photo by Kent Fiala
The male house finch has a more red or rose color than the purple finch, and the red is much reduced in coverage area. Note how the red extends to the breast but not to the belly. Male house finches are also brown on the upperparts whereas the purple finch has the shades of raspberry. Photo by Lee Weber
This photo shows a female purple finch sharing a feeder with female house finches. Note how the streaking stands out compared to the house finches, which are plainer. Also note the plainer, unpatterned face of the house finch. The bulkier, bull-necked posture of the purple finch can be seen in this photo too. Photo by Lee Weber