Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2021-12

Common name:

Purple Finch

Scientific name: Haemorhous purpureus
Date: 2-13-2021
Time: 8:40
Length of time observed: ~3 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult female/immature
Sex: unknown
Location: 11045 North 5550 West, Highland, Utah
County: Utah
Latilong: 40.433, -111.791
Elevation: ~4,800
Distance to bird: 25-30 feet
Optical equipment: Leica Ultravid 8x42 HD
Weather: Rainy, overcast ~40 Degrees F
Light Conditions: Low light - somewhat poor
Description:        Size of bird: ~ 6 inches
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Chunky finch
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Brown above with streaked brown and whitish below
(Description:)            Bill Type: Short, thick/stubby triangular bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:

I was looking through eBird checklists and photos on the rare bird alert for Utah on 2-12-2021, and noticed photos for a "Cassin's Finch" flagged in Utah County (not sure why this species is flagged, but would have missed this amazing bird if it weren't). I looked at the first photo and it immediately caught my eye as much too contrasty for a female Cassin's. I took a closer look and the bird began to check boxes for Purple Finch field marks - and for the Eastern ssp. in particular. I contacted the individual who initially reported the bird in their backyard, and went down the following morning to get a look for myself with a handful of others. Stocky finch with long-winged, short-tailed appearance. Thick, short triangular bill. Strikingly contrasting plumage overall for a finch, especially with facial pattern and with the thick almost chocolate-colored streaking below. Very strong facial pattern, broad white supercilium and jaw stripe. Unmarked undertail coverts. Wide, crisp, dark blobby streaking on a white breast that extended into belly and flanks. No visible eye-ring/eye arcs.
(see photos)

Song or call & method of delivery: Silent during observation, although another observer may have audio/video recordings
Behavior: Seen 5-12 feet off the ground in both spruce and aspen trees, perched close to bird feeders. Not actively foraging during sighting.
Habitat: Urban backyard with spruce and aspen trees, other mixed brush and weeds.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Cassin's finch, which typically has a longer, more sharply pointed bill, thinner streaking below, eye-ring or eye arcs usually visible and with marked undertail coverts, not as bold of a facial pattern. More pale/grayish appearance overall.

The Pacific/Western ssp. of Purple Finch has a weak facial pattern, olive tones above with more blurred streaking underneath, giving it a muddy, almost dirty appearance. Culmen for this ssp. is noticeably more curved.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I used to see Eastern Purple Finches on a regular basis throughout the year while living in Wisconsin and Minnesota for about 4 years. Quite familiar with Cassin's Finches from my time here in Utah. Last fall we spent a few days in Washington State with a very knowledgeable birder who walked us through, in great detail, the difference between the Western and Eastern ssp. of Purple Finch. Saw about a dozen female type birds during that trip.
References consulted: Memory, eBird, Sibley's
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Max Malmquist
Observer's address: Holladay, UT
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Von and Karen Welch (original observation), Kendall Watkins, Bryant Olsen, Mike Malmquist, Lauri Taylor, Jeff Cooper, possibly others
Date prepared: 2-13-2021
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: See Photos in checklists - Max and Mike Malmquist, Bryant Olsen:, Karen and Von Welch (original checklist/observation):, Jeff Cooper: Kendall Watkins: