A Purple Finch in the Snow

Snow began to fall Sunday night, and by Monday morning, our northeast Georgia landscape was covered in at least six or seven inches of snow, maybe more. A steady mist of icy-snow continued to fall for several hours.

In the snow, cold and wind Monday morning, we set a tray of birdseed outside on a table on the deck and within minutes, dozens of Chipping Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, several Dark-eyed Juncos, a pair of Northern Cardinals, a few American Goldfinch, Carolina Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, and a pair of House Finches had arrived, and the tray stayed busy with birds all day. A Pine Warbler, several Yellow-rumped Warblers and a Carolina Wren came now and then.

One of the most interesting visitors was a female Purple Finch, the first Purple Finch I’ve seen here this year. Tall and sturdy, with bold brown and white coloring and a slightly pointed crown, she looked regal and larger than life, with a big, cone-shaped bill. A pattern of dark brown and white stripes marked her face, with short brown streaks down her breast and sides.

Beside her, the two House Finches – a rosy-red male and mousy, gray-streaked female that always seem to be together – looked gentle and diminutive, though there’s not supposed to be much difference in their size. I guess it’s all in the bearing, the attitude, maybe, or the erect posture, head held high, and behavior. The Purple Finch came several times to the feeder during the day, and whenever she was there, she seemed to dominate most of the other birds.

When she was not around, the Chipping Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows dominated. Chipping Sparrows would sit in the tray in one spot and eat and eat, sometimes trying to chase other birds away, but without much luck. White-throated Sparrows moved around and scratched at the seeds as they would if they were foraging on the ground, sending seeds flying down – which was fine with the Juncos and Cardinals, which stayed mostly on the deck below the table. Chickadees and Titmice flew back and forth, grabbing a seed or two, and flying away with it to a nearby branch.

In the front yard, I scattered extra seed on the ground around the shrubs, in addition to the two feeders, and several White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos and a couple of colorful Eastern Towhees found it within minutes.

Pine Warbler, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Carolina Wren and American Goldfinch joined the Chickadees, Titmice and Chipping Sparrows on the feeders out front. At times a Northern Mockingbird tried to monopolize one of the feeders, but it didn’t work. Mourning Doves fed on seeds that dropped to the ground.

Late in the afternoon, on a walk through the neighborhood, we heard three Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers mewing in the snow-cushioned quiet; a small flock of Cedar Waxwings flew over, barely visible in the still-blurry gray sky; two pretty brown female Rusty Blackbirds perched in a bare-limbed pecan tree; four warm-yellow Pine Warblers foraged with White-throated Sparrows, Eastern Towhees and Chipping Sparrows in and around a thicket of privet bushes; one Ruby-crowned Kinglet flashed a tuft of scarlet in its crown; a Northern Flicker called kleer; and one Red-shouldered Hawk lurked low in the trees, flying from one as we came too close, but settling again in another nearby

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