Ben here with today's #BenInNature update!

Ben here with today's #BenInNature update!

Ben here with today's #BenInNature update! This is Haemorhous purpureus, better known as the purple finch! Upon seeing this photo, you're probably thinking, "Well, it doesn't look all that purple to me." That's because this particular purple finch is a female! Like many birds, the males tend to be brightly colored while the females have duller coloration. I'll share a photo of a male purple finch as soon as I snap a good one!

During the breeding season, purple finches are generally found in Canada, although there are a few stretches along the west coast of the U.S. and in the northern part of the U.S. where they can be found year-round. In southwest Virginia, purple finches are migratory birds that visit us in the late fall and winter.

Unfortunately, purple finches aren't as common in the eastern U.S. as they once were, largely because they tend to get outcompeted by the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) in areas where their ranges overlap. The house finch was originally native to Mexico and the American southwest, but they were introduced to the east coast in the 1940s. People sold them in New York City under the name "Hollywood Finches" and many of them were released by the vendors and owners, causing them to quickly become naturalized. They were also introduced to Hawaii in the mid-1800s and can now be found on all of the major Hawaiian islands.

If you'd like to attract purple finches to your feeder, they're big fans of sunflower seeds, thistle, and millet.

ABOUT #BenInNature
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.

You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting

If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!

map of Virginia and surrounding areas

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