Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus Scientific name definitions

J. Timothy Wootton
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 1, 1996


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Breeding Range

Breeds from se. Yukon Territory and sw. Northwest Territory, ne. Alberta, n.-central Saskatchewan, central Manitoba, nw. Ontario, s.-central Quebec, and Newfoundland south to Long I., New York, nw. New Jersey, se. Pennsylvania, through the Appalachian Mtns. of e. West Virginia, and in Highland Co., Virginia, sw. Pennsylvania, ne. Ohio, central Michigan, n. Wisconsin, ne. Minnesota, s. Manitoba, se. and s.-central Saskatchewan, e.-central and sw. Alberta, s. British Columbia, and in Washington and Oregon from the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mtns. westward (Figure 1; Godfrey 1986, Janssen 1987, Peterjohn 1989b, Virginia Society of Ornithology 1989, Robbins 1991, Brewer et al. 1991, Buckelew and Hall 1994, Gilligan et al. 1994, Breeding Bird Survey [BBS] data, North American Nest Record Card Program [NRCP] data). In California breeds in the Klamath Mtn. region of the north, along the coast ranges south to e. San Bernadino Co., in the mountains of the southwest, and along the western slopes of the Cascade-Sierra axis from Shasta Co. south to n. Kern Co. (Small 1994).

Isolated populations also breed in Turtle Mtns., and sporadic records along Red River valley of North Dakota (Stewart 1975b, BBS data), and possibly in Carter Co. of ne. Tennessee (Robinson 1990a). Historical records of breeding activity in mountains of Arkansas (Black 1929b) and N. Carolina (Brewster 1886a) and in ne. Illinois (Bohlen 1989), but no recent records in these locales. Singing males detected on BBS routes in s. Minnesota and sw. Wisconsin (associated with Mississippi River Valley) and scattered through Indiana (BBS data, J. S. Castrale pers. comm.), but no confirmed breeding records in these areas. Information on breeding status along southern coastal Alaska sparse; requires further investigation.

Winter Range

Pacific Coast of North America from the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mtns. west from w.-central British Columbia south to extreme nw. Baja California except in Central Valley of California (Figure 1; Christmas Bird Count [CBC] data). Many withdraw from higher elevations in west during the winter (Small 1994). Also winters from s. Manitoba east to s. Newfoundland, south to extreme n. Florida, and west to central Texas, central Oklahoma, central Kansas, w. Nebraska, w. South Dakota, and w. North Dakota. Isolated wintering populations consistently observed in central Alberta (Edmonton area) and occasionally elsewhere in Alberta. Periodic observations of wintering populations in s. and central Arizona (Scott 1887a, Simpson and Werner 1958, CBC data). Also recorded sporadically in winter in Colorado (Andrews and Righter 1992), Wyoming (Oakleaf et al. 1992), and Montana (McEneaney 1993). Isolated reports of occurrence in Anchorage and Homer, AK (West and Bailey 1986). Few data on wintering status along coastal British Columbia and s. Alaska; needs further investigation. Numbers often decline in northern areas as winter progresses (e.g., Janssen 1987, Peterjohn 1989b). Erratic and irruptive during winter. May winter commonly in a given area one year and be virtually absent the next.

Historical Changes to the Distribution

Range appears to have contracted from n. Illinois and Indiana and from s. Appalachian Mtns. over the past 80 yr. No appreciable changes over the past 30 yr (BBS data).

Figure 1. Distribution of the Purple Finch. - Range Map
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Figure 1. Distribution of the Purple Finch.
Purple Finch, Abundance map
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Data provided by eBird

Purple Finch

Haemorhous purpureus


Relative abundance is depicted for each season along a color gradient from a light color indicating lower relative abundance to a dark color indicating a higher relative abundance. Relative abundance is the estimated average count of individuals detected by an eBirder during a 1 hour, 1 kilometer traveling checklist at the optimal time of day for each species.   Learn more about this data

Relative abundance
Breeding season
May 31 - Aug 17
Non-breeding season
Dec 28 - Jan 25
Pre-breeding migratory season
Feb 1 - May 24
Post-breeding migratory season
Aug 24 - Dec 21
Note: Seasonal ranges overlap and are stacked in the order above; view full range in season maps.
Seasons timeline
Learn more about seasons

Recommended Citation

Wootton, J. T. (2020). Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.purfin.01