Purple Finch Haemorhous purpureus Scientific name definitions

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

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

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Nestlings give a 2-note call (yo wee), with second note higher than first (A. A. Saunders cited in Bent 1968b). Young birds reported to study and attempt to copy singing male parent shortly after fledging; vocalizations on a lower key than those of adult male, described as 2-phrase twitter-twee twitter-twee (Webster 1898).

Vocal Array

Three types of songs reported in adult males: Warbling Song, Territory Song, “Vireo” Song (A. A. Saunders cited in Bent 1968b). Warbling Song 6–23 rapid, connected notes with no 2 sequential notes the same pitch. Song version varies within and among individuals. Territory Song (Fig. 2Figure 2, Figure 2) includes a series of rapid notes of the same pitch near the beginning of the song, a strongly accented, high-pitched note near the end of the song, and a few warbling notes in the middle. Song version does not vary within an individual. Vireo Song (Figure 2D) comprises 2 phrases of 2–5 notes, similar to but less variable than Red-eyed Vireo (Vireo olivaceus) song. Female song reported as “finch-like but quite different from that of the male,” lasting 1–2 min and given from the nest (Stratton 1967). Female also reported to give a whit whewe call from the nest (North American Nest Record Card data). Flight Call (Figure 2C) a sharp tick . Songs sometimes include portions of songs from other species, including Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica; Townsend 1924b), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), and Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater; F. H. Allen cited in Bent 1968b).

Geographic Variation

Territory Songs of H. p. purpureus and H. p. californicus distinctly different (T. Hahn pers. comm.; also see Fig. Figure 2A, Figure 2). Eastern birds give a more leisurely series of warbles spanning a wider range of notes than do western birds. Relationship to variation in song structure of the 2 subspecies to variation in acoustical properties of dominant habitats not investigated.


Warbling Song generally given in late winter and spring. Territory Song given during breeding season. Vireo Song given in early spring and in fall (A. A. Saunders cited in Bent 1968b).

Daily Pattern Of Vocalizing

No information.

Places Of Vocalizing

Usually sings from top of tree, usually from a habitual song perch. Singing from nest by male reported (Mousley 1919).

Repertoire And Delivery Of Songs

No repertoire patterns reported.

Social Context And Presumed Functions Of Vocalizations

Warbling Song often given in flocks; may establish dominance or serve as a basis for female mate choice. Males often give Warbling Song as a chorus. Territorial Song given by solitary males (Mousley 1919), apparently to maintain boundaries of nesting territory. Reports of female vocalizations only when on the nest, but function unknown.

Nonvocal Sounds

None reported.

Purple Finch
Figure 2. Vocalizations of the Purple Finch

(A) Territory Song (Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics [BLB] #11112, Franklin Co., OH, recorded 4 May 1969); (B) Territory Song (BLB #7793, Benton Co., OR, recorded 30 Jun 1965); (C) Flight Call (BLB #9284, Franklin Co., OH, recorded 7 Apr 1968); (D) Vireo Song (BLB #17557, Tompkins Co., NY, recorded 14 Mar 1990). Sonograms prepared by the staff of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics, Ohio State University.

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