It is February and technically winter, however my being in Mississippi and unaware of the seasonal ebbs and flows of avifauna of this region make the daily backyard birdwatching chock-full of surprises.

I began to notice birds that I did not expect to be backyard birds. On one day I saw a #RedwingedBlackbird. On another day a she #YellowRumpedWarbler and still on another day a #PineWarbler. Of course this could be perfectly normal, but because this is my first winter here, it seems quite extraordinary. These are all birds that in the past, when I lived in Nebraska, I only was able to view while at wilderness patches.

By far the most affecting bird I have observed among my backyard friends is the Purple Finch. Now before I get further into this, my backyard birds consists mainly of American Goldfinches, House Finches, White Throated Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Dark-Eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, American Robins, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers, Red Breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Flickers, the occasional Redtailed Hawk, Tufted Titmice and occasional Barred Owl.

phew! I attribute this to the wild area behind my yard, plus the array of berry-producing shrubs, pines, pecans and all other manner of native vegetation that grow in this neighborhood. Plus the birdfeeding station on the side of my house is not mowed, it is mainly groundcover with lots of leaves and pinestraw. Ideal for foraging birds!

So back to the Purple Finch. One day I was seated at my special spot that provides me a view of the birdfeeding station from my porch door. I noticed a bird perched on a sapling that looked a tad different from the usual House Finches. Its markings were darker and there was a pronounced streak of white and dark across the eye area that I do not observe in she House Finches. It was a she PURPLE FINCH!

I immediately logged onto Merlin to see if what kind of bird this was.

EUREKA! A Purple Finch.

So then I wondered, if the girlies were at the birdfeeding station, soon the guys would arrive too.

It took one week. Then, the shyest little Purple Finch arrived.

Me being an introvert, I could understand his hesitation to jump into the feeding frenzy fray of the rambunctious American Goldfinches and House Finches. But over a week or so more began to arrive. At the moment I have counted 2 girlies and 4 guys in the Purple Finch crew.

But today, today I became acquainted with a rare color morph of Purple Finch.

Bird Xanthochromism is a genetic mutation that results in excessive production of yellow pigment.

Of course I consulted google to see what I could find out about the Yellow Purple Finch:

 In Purple Finch yellow color is very rare, and often comes along with abnormal streaking, which may mean that it is hormonal.

David Sibley, 2012,mean%20that%20it%20is%20hormonal.

Of course that made me beam with pride. A rare color morph in my own backyard! If you read Sibley’s post on Yellow Purple Finches you will find that it is not conclusive if they are she’s or he’s. In the world of birds, you just never know what may happen and of course there is so much mystery to the innerworkings of the bird world.

Which is what is among so many other things, so beautiful about birds. How do they know where to go, how do they communicate, how do they covers thousands of miles each year to meet their mate year after year. Perilous journeys of survival over and over…

A kindred spirit for sure. Long live the gregarious Finches!

I mention the American Goldfinch in the latest minisode of Random Nature Podcast. Listen here


Published by Christy Hyman, PhD (spatialhuman6)

Historical Geographer, digital humanist, mother, griefworker, activist, advocate

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