Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2011-32

Common name:

Purple Finch

Scientific name: Carpodacus purpureus
Date: June 9, 2010
Time: 10:30am
Length of time observed: 5 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Backyard feeder station near the Blacksmith Fork River in Nibley, Utah
County: Cache
Latilong: 41.643607, -111.81903
Elevation: 4600'
Distance to bird: 25'
Optical equipment: Bushnell 10 x 50 binoculars
Weather: Sunny & clear skies
Light Conditions: Daylight, cloudless sky
Description:        Size of bird: About 6"
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Same as House Finch or Cassin's Finch
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Appeared to have been sprayed with rose-colored paint
(Description:)            Bill Type: Typical seed cracking bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
This colorful male joined a small mixed flock of House and Cassin's Finches that I was casually observing while snacking near my kitchen window. My mouth literally dropped open as I soon realized that I was observing a male Purple Finch. I grabbed my binoculars to verify my original identification and was positive at what I was witnessing. I quickly called my son and simply asked him to identify the completely rose-colored bird on the feeder. He went directly to the Red Finches page 343 of the Peterson Field Guide for Western Birds and immediately pointed to the Purple Finch. I asked him to double check his identification. He did and said without a doubt it was a Purple Finch. He was confused at my insistence that he double check until I showed him the Range Map which illustrated that they do not normally inhabit Northern Utah valleys. After the initial shock wore off, I ran to get my camera and telephoto lens, but the bird left before I could take a photograph. I have hesitated reporting this for fear of disbelief until the President of our local Audubon Chapter saw two Purple Finches at his feeders today.
Check with Val Grant at
Song or call & method of delivery: No song or call
Behavior: House Finches and Cassin's Finches were at the feeder eating black sunflower seeds. This male with unusual coloring flew in from the south, landed on a nearby branch, then proceeded to the feeder displacing a female House Finch. He fed for only a few minutes, barely enough time for me to call to my son to have him give an independent species identification.
Habitat: Bird feeders located against thick shrubs 10' high, and surrounded by cottonwood trees along a canal of the Blacksmith Fork River.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
House Finches: Brown back/wings/tail and red stripe above the eye.
There were several males and females present.

Cassin's Finches: Similar to the House Finches except sporting what resembles a butch-sytle haircut on their crown. There were also a few Cassin's Finches present.

Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I am a member of the Board of Trustees of the local Audubon,
I taught high school AP Environmental Science and Biology/Earth Systems science for 20 years, I was a member of the Advisory Committee for Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
References consulted: Peterson's Field Guide to Western Birds
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ron Hellstern
Observer's address: 4766 Hollow Road Nibley, Utah 84321
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Parker Hellstern - 21 years old, 3 times Utah State Envirothon Champion
Date prepared: June 24, 2011
Additional material:  
Additional_Comments: Since I had no photographic record of this sighting, I hesitated to report it for fear of ridicule. Now, since the local Audubon president said he also saw two Purple Finches today I agreed to submit my sighting to your committee.