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Some hints on Purple/House Finch i.d. and distinctions:

1.  The Purple Finch, if named by a woman, would have been Magenta Finch (sounds neater and is a more accurate color descriptor)

2.  Look at your field guide and note these parts on the two species:
     a.  top of the male's head--which has brown, which doesn't
     b.  streaks on male flanks--where and how much?
     c.  face of female--which is plain which is heavily marked?
     d.  tail (both sexes, both species)  which is slightly forked, which isn't?

This is one species pair that often befuddles beginning birders.  As with many such "head scratcher" pairs, once the birder has seen the two together, i.d. becomes easy, automatic and rewarding.

Bodacious birding,

Edge Wade
Columbia, Mo
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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Spring Meeting: April 27, 2012 in Joplin, MO
http://www.mobirds.org/ASM/Meetings.aspx
ABA Birding Code of Ethics
http://www.aba.org/about/ethics.html