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Purple Finch Life Cycle

The purple finch (Carpodacus purpureus) remains reasonably widespread in North America, although numbers are decreasing. The purple finch's life cycle is similar to that of many other small birds. Adults pair off, lay eggs in a nest and look after the young until they are old enough to take care of themselves.

Courtship and Mating

The breeding season runs from middle spring to late summer. These finches prefer various woody habitats, including parks, orchards and hedgerows as well as natural forests. The males set about attracting mates by putting on complex courtship displays the minute a female enters their territories. The display includes the male fluttering his wings, puffing up his crest and singing, often carrying a bit of nest material as a prop. Once a female is suitably impressed, they form a monogamous pair and start nest building.

Nests and Eggs

Purple finches usually nest in trees, with the female doing most of the construction work. Purple finch nests are circular affairs made from whatever suitable materials are available, mainly animal hair, grass and other bits of vegetation. Eggs are a delicate green-blue, lightly speckled with black and laid in clutches of about four to six. The female incubates the eggs while the male assists by feeding her. The eggs hatch after about two weeks.

Nestlings and Fledglings

The newly hatched nestlings are helpless, confined to the nest for two weeks, fed constantly by both parents. After this they fledge; they have developed enough feathers to be able to fly, and they leave the nest. The parents continue providing food for some time after. By the following year, the young birds are able to have offspring of their own.


The purple finch takes its name from the rosy plumage of the male, who has a pinkish head and chest with darker wings and a white/light pink belly. As with other finches, the females have similar patterns but much more subtle coloring in flecks of brown with white undersides. When breeding season is over, many populations migrate to warmer regions for the winter. Most purple finches breed in Canada and overwinter in the eastern parts of the United States.