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Where Do Purple Finches Live? (Habitat, Range + Distribution)

The Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus) is a reasonably common sight in northern North America. They primarily prefer coniferous and mixed-conifer habitats but are no strangers to human-populated areas either.

Depending on where you live, this bird may frequent your backyard feeder during the breeding season or over winter. So let's get into it, where do Purple Finches live?

Purple finches breed widely throughout Canada and much of the northern United States. They also occur along the Pacific Seaboard east to the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountain ranges.

These songbirds expand their range within the US during winter. However, regardless of the time of year, the purple finch is extremely rare in the Rocky Mountain region.

We will discuss the range and habitat of the purple finch in greater detail throughout the article. Read on to discover more!

Purple finches breed widely throughout Canada and much of the northern United States

Purple finches breed widely throughout Canada and much of the northern United States

What is the distribution range of Purple Finches?

The purple finch ranges broadly across Canada during its breeding season, from the southeast Yukon Territory to south-central Quebec and Newfoundland. These birds also extend south into the Northeastern United States and along the Appalachian mountain ranges to eastern West Virginia.

Populations of purple finches are absent throughout much of the central US (The Rocky Mountain states). However, they are present all along the Pacific Coast in Washington and Oregon, stretching inland to the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountain range. They also occur along the coast of California up to the western slopes of the Sierras.

The purple finch's range shifts during winter. Populations migrate out of Canada and into the southern half of the United States. They occur throughout much of the Midwest and Southeast between August and May.

Male Purple Finch on fence post in snow, Marion County, Illinois

Male Purple Finch on fence post in snow, Marion County, Illinois

Where do Purple Finches live in the US?

Within the US, the purple finch is present year-round in the northeast, south along the Appalachian Mountains (to eastern West Virginia), and along the northern tips of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Year-round populations also occur in the Pacific Northwest and California. Purple finches in these states reach from coastal Washington and Oregon to the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains and south through coastal California to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The US distribution of the purple finch expands during winter as many migrate to warmer regions. This bird's winter range includes the Midwest and Southeast. Observers occasionally report scattered individuals in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Anchorage, Alaska.

Close up of a female Purple Finch perched on a branch

Close up of a female Purple Finch perched on a branch

What states do Purple Finches live in?

Purple finches are permanent residents of the Northeastern states, including Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Populations also extend south through New York, Pennsylvania, and through the Appalachian regions of Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia (Only in Highland County).

Moving westward, purple finches are found in the northeastern corner of Ohio and along the northern halves of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. A gap in their range occurs across the Rocky Mountain States until you reach the Pacific Coast - where they occur in Washington, Oregon, and California.

During winter, the purple finch expands into the midwestern and southeastern US. Wintering grounds include the east coast from Delaware to Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Northern Florida. They may also occur through Appalachia and the Southeast - Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and eastern Texas.

Additionally, populations reside in the midwest, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. Ranges end through North Dakota, South Dakota, eastern Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Occasional winter migrants pop up in southern Arizona.

Purple finches are permanent residents of the Northeastern states

Purple finches are permanent residents of the Northeastern states

Where do Purple Finches live in Canada?

Purple finches are widespread throughout Canada, particularly during the nesting season. These birds breed from the southeast Yukon Territory and the Northwest Territory, to British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, south-central Quebec, and Newfoundland.

What is the habitat of a Purple Finch?

The purple finch primarily prefers wet or cool coniferous forest habitats. However, they also occur in mixed conifer or deciduous forests, riparian corridors, and bog edges. Purple finches are no stranger to developed areas either, including pastures, backyards, orchards, gardens, and hedgerows.

Purple Finch in flight

Purple Finch in flight

How rare is it to see a Purple Finch?

The purple finch is a commonly sighted songbird throughout Canada, the Northeastern United States, and Pacific Coast. However, sightings are rare in the Rocky Mountain States. Scattered sightings have occurred in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

Where is the best place to see Purple Finches?

The best place to see purple finches during breeding season is in their preferred habitat of cool, wet coniferous, or mixed-conifer forests. They are particularly abundant throughout Canada, the northern United States, and the Pacific Seaboard this time of year.

The purple finch resides in a greater variety of habitats during winter, including backyards, hedgerows, and pastures. This songbird is also more widely present in the US in colder months.

You are likely to spot the purple finch anywhere in the Midwest, Appalachia, or the Southeast while they over-winter.

Forests are one of the best places to spot Purple Finches

Forests are one of the best places to spot Purple Finches

What time do Purple Finches come out?

Purple finches are active during the daytime. They typically spend their waking hours in the tree canopy, foraging for seeds, buds, blossoms, and nectar.

Do Purple Finches stay in one place?

The purple finch is a partially migratory species. Populations in the northeastern United States, southeastern Canada, and along the Pacific Seaboard are primarily year-round residents. However, finches that breed farther north in Canada tend to retreat from these colder northern regions to the eastern US.

Purple Finch eating seeds from a backyard bird feeder

Purple Finch eating seeds from a backyard bird feeder

Where do Purple Finches live in the winter?

During winter, purple finches migrate from their summer breeding grounds in northern Canada to warmer regions farther south and along the Pacific Coast. However, they do not leave Canada entirely. These birds are typically year-round residents in southern Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland.

Purple finches overwintering in the US occur throughout the eastern regions - from Maine to the Midwest and Southeast. They are also present west of the Cascades and Sierra Nevadas, in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Fall migration to wintering grounds usually occurs between August and December. Juvenile purple finches fly south before the adults.

Purple Finch perched on a branch in the snow

Purple Finch perched on a branch in the snow

Where do Purple Finches live in the summer?

During the summer, or breeding season, purple finches reside in the full extent of their Canadian range, which covers at least a portion of every Territory except Nunavut. These birds also breed in the northeastern United States and the west coast in Washington, Oregon, and California.

Spring migration typically takes place between February and May. Males arrive at breeding territories before female Purple Finches.

Do Purple Finches live in groups?

Purple finches typically stick with only their mate during the breeding season. However, they are social during winter, when they often gather in groups of 2 to more than 200.

It is common for larger flocks to contain other species, such as American goldfinches or pine siskins. These groups will roost and forage together all winter.

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