My feeders are close to a window so I can look out from time to time and see whose out there. And when I see something interesting, which is pretty much all the time, I snap a photo. Even though they aren't wonderful images, I do learn a lot from looking at them. In the enlargement above you can see the white stripe above the eye of the female finch sitting behind the male. And though you can't see her well with this small an image, the bird on the left is also a female purple finch. In the above series and below, it was the male purple finch that caught my eye and caused me to pick up the camera. I took the photos just to be sure I ID'd him correctly because, so far, I haven't seen a house finch. And I'm told by a more experienced TN naturalist,"surely you've seen a house finch." But truth is, all my images have turned out to be purple finches. I now snap images whenever I see the "red" finches just to make sure, since I am still learning the characteristics of these birds.
Above, a male and female purple finch feed together. And in the images below, how many finches do you see? (I originally saw one! )
In the second photo, if you look carefully, you can see the white eyebrow stripe of all three finches in the front. Below, (again, sorry for the poor quality) you can see a detail of the bird in the back. This bird has the white stripe and yellow marking of the pine siskin. In total, I had three female purple finches and one pine siskin at that moment on the feeder and two male purple finches on the ground.
Cornell provides a "Tricky ID" page for these reddish finches with comparisons of the House, Purple and Cassin's finches using both illustrations and photos for the females. The male is distinguished by his rasberry red color and overall coloration. Both the male and the female have a similar facial pattern, with the female being brown and white and having a prominent white/light eyebrow stripe. Cornell's purple finch page also gives a good distribution map for these birds which are a wintering species here in TN.
The purple finch is considered to have a variable migration pattern known as "biennial incursions" which is largely influenced by the availability of food.
Sketches, coming up!