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This is a page under construction, but just to get it started
I've thrown a few pictures up. Mostly very poor quality
grab shots, but they illustrate an overlooked and under-appreciated point.
These are all taken at Utopia, Uvalde Co., Texas, near southern edge of
Edwards Plateau, and are all House Finch.
The south central Texas House Finch has long been said by Texans
to be the reddest of them all. It is no brag, but fact.
But because they were caught bragging about the size of their
state just once a long long time ago, nobody believed them.
In my opinion this House Finch also has the sweetest song
of 'em all. I call it the Texas Ruby Red House Finch.
Unlike typical field guide depictions in which male House Finch
is shown with a brown nape and back, the south-central Texas
Ruby Red House Finch often has a very red nape and back, as in
the way Purple Finch are depicted. This has caused a
tremendous amount of mis-identifications here, as these
Texas birds are not well depicted in most national guides.
So we hope to begin to shed some light on the subject.
Most important note the variation in the shades of red
due the the birds, and different lighting and angles.
Then note the extent of red, which is usually beyond that
shown in any field guide image I've seen for House Finch,
generally matching male Purple Finch depictions in extent.
The Texas Ruby Red House Finch
Yes, this has levels a little juiced, but only
a little compared to what you likely think. :)
Just to show extent of red in back. June
Note flush to back, and somewhat maroonish tone
on this one in January.
These two are the same bird, note strong
red wash to nape and back.
April, note red blush again, this is how they look here.
It is not uncommon for eyebrows to meet on nape
forming very bright bar-like patch. March
June, a sick or dead bird, but shows
a common extent of red above.
June, same bird
House Finches (male upper left, female lower right)
American goldfinch (upper right - winter male) and
a Pine Siskin (leaving - lower left) at sunflower tube.
Note male House Finch auriculars (ear coverts, side of
face) flushed with red, crown and nape is same so whole
head can appear red overall, and it typically extends
well down back on many to most full adult males here.
February, crown, nape, and back flushed red,
slightly maroonish in throat
February, note strong wash of red on nape and upper back
Females range from grayer to browner
in appearance, note two narrow white wingbars
It is interesting that people that know Purple and House Finch
never confuse them whatsoever and can ID them in fading light
bare-eyed at reasonable distance without use of details of
plumage or color, correctly 100% of the time. With size,
shape, and structure. Then, folks studying birds that
are trying to learn them with books called field guides are
being led to the wrong answer by not having a proper depiction
of what *their* House Finch looks like. It is not all user.
At least if you live in a bunch of Texas, which I heard is
pretty darn big. This bird's range is the same in area as more
than 6 NE U.S. states, or double that, where there would be
outrage if not unrest to not have a usable workable House Finch
image that reflected reality. :) ;)
Today's rate of false positives for Purple Finch did not
exist 30 years ago (I don't think). I checked most of
the standard basic guides and it seems to me the much maligned
Golden Guide (Robbins) actually might have the closest most
similar image to these House Finch in central Texas.
We got it right with the Golden Guide, Petersen, and Pough a
half-century ago, and now with modern guides, more, don't.
I'd say the rate of false positives for PUFI seems highest
in the hill country. I don't know how widespread the
Texas Ruby Red HOFI is, but in the old days it was Falcon Dam
area HOFI that were particularly held in the highest esteem
for redness by locals. But I think that was as much
because birders were so happy to get out of the bugs and
humidity of the LRGV, and see HOFI, in that xeric landscape,
where reds seem brighter. These are just as bright here
in the hill country, seeming the same animal to me.
Lots of people here are feeding, watching feeders, learning, and
due to field guide images as much as anything, not being able to
figure it out correctly. But they do have images of about
a hundred Eurasian species should any of them occur in their yard.
House Finch is abundant in the hill country, I've seen flocks
in the wild, away from towns and people, feeding on wild seed crops,
of over a hundred birds. Whereas Purple Finch is rare
southward nowadays, as its winter range retracts northward.
PUFI is a canary in the coalmine indicator species: it used to be
regular here in winter, even common some years, and now no longer
occurs much, becoming a rarity in a decade.
That is how fast change happens, in less time than it takes to deny it.
The last good years for PUFI around Utopia were winters 03-04 and 04-05,
when you could see multiples at the sunflower tube feeders, but not since
have I seen that.
Here is a quick checklist of features to look at or for,
when seperating Purple from House Finch. Bird identification
is not a picture match game, but the matching of a known suite of
characters for any given species. These are generally found
ONLY by reading the text in multiple guides. Multiple marks
must be used and they must match to claim an ID. The more that
do, the more certain the ID is. Always get 5 and try for 10 marks.
Here's a Basic 101 primer on what to look for in PUFI vs. HOFI.
PUFI = Purple Finch; HOFI = House Finch
Try to match as many characters as possible each time
on every bird to make good solid identifications.
Learn the size, shape, and structure of a HOFI, the
whole and the parts, and when a PUFI shows up, it will
stand out like a sore thumb. If you really know a
House Finch bill or tail, you cannot mis-ID one for a PUFI.
It really is that simple. You don't have to know
PUFI. Know what you have, and that means bill shape
and tail shape, which are as important as any color or pattern.
If you think you have a PUFI, you check to make sure it
doesn't have a HOFI bill or tail, first. I can't
emphasize enough to not use the extent of red on head or
in back, as it is not a useful character of seperation here
in central Texas, even if the books did have it right.
Note the nice knickers HOFI wears, almost always if you
can see the upper most feathered portion of leg, the thigh,
HOFI has fancy pajamas with thin milk chocolate stripes
on the feathered portion of the tibia.
I'll be adding more HOFI pix to the page to better and
more fully illustrate the Texas Ruby Red House Finch.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
If you're here looking for them, whatever you do,
don't forget to try some Texas Ruby Red Grapefruits
and or juice, but *only Texun brand* juice (and say goodbye
to calcium kidney stones). Do not get the national
brand juice if you want the real deal pure straight stuff
unpolluted with corn syrup.
I have no interest financial or otherwise in Texun brand
or anything Texas Ruby Red, other than stealing the
name for our House Finch as it is most appropriate.
And not being able to get over how good and sweet
Texas Ruby Red Grapefruit is. ;)
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