Date: 3/9/18 6:29 pm
From: David Davis via va-bird <va-bird...>
Subject: Re: [Va-bird] Purple Finch plumage
Thanks to those of you who replied to my question—especially Paul Glass for providing the link to Bent’s “Life Histories” which made it pretty clear that there really is no safe way to identify a female Purple Finch by sight. I suppose that one could use behavior, as we do when conducting a breeding bird atlas; that is, if a streaked Purple Finch would qualify for a Confirmed BBA code, then it’s probably an adult female. This, of course, would work only in the breeding range and the breeding season, so it wouldn’t be much help in Virginia where the species is mostly seen in winter, not nesting.

I will continue to record sightings for eBird as sex and age “unknown” for streaked birds, and will view with suspicion reports by others who call such birds females. I can only assume that Team eBird already does just that.

Best to all. Enjoy the Purple Finches whatever they are!

Dave Davis

> On Mar 6, 2018, at 10:03 AM, Paul Glass <pag...> wrote:
> I believe it takes 2 years for Purple Finches to attain their adult plumage.
> Therefore, I don't think there is a safe date to separate females from
> immature males. Here's some detailed information on their molt schedule if
> you're interested:
> Paul Glass
> South Boston, VA
> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Davis via va-bird [mailto:<va-bird...>]
> Sent: Tuesday, March 06, 2018 9:51 AM
> Subject: [Va-bird] Purple Finch plumage
> We have 5 adult male Purple Finches at our feeders this morning in the
> mountains of Shenandoah County, but no females. In the fall/early winter,
> we usually have both adult males and female-plumaged birds, the latter
> presumably a mix of females and immature males. These observations prompt
> two questions. First, do adult males migrate separately from females,
> especially in late winter when they may be moving back toward their breeding
> range?
> Second, when is it safe to assume that a streaked bird (aka female-plumaged)
> is really a female rather than of indeterminate sex? I assume that by this
> date, all the immature males would have molted into adult male plumage, but
> I don't really know for sure. Are there "safe dates" for calling a streaked
> bird a female in Virginia? I would like to know for eBird purposes, so I
> can correctly assign sex to my sightings.
> Thanks and good birding.
> Dave Davis
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