The Purple Finch Feeding Preferences
Purple finches rely mostly on seeds for their food. Their favorites are the sunflower seeds, seeds and buds from the elm tree, red maple, millet and thistle or nyjer. Thistle is a popular choice of finch birds especially the purple finch, gold finch and even mourning doves. Thistle or nyjer is a tiny black seed from India and Africa which can be found in most places that offer wild bird food. It has long been used in canary mixes but is now a common food source of wild birds.
These birds will also feed on fruits like raspberries and blackberries, the winged fruits of tulip trees, ash, sweetgum, ragweed, cocklebur, red cedar fruits, insects like beetles, birch and maple buds. Elm fruits and plump buds are abundant in summer while fruits from the tuliptree, maple and ash grow in fall. Apart from fruits, they also eat insects and seeds during the summer and berries of evergreen in winter.
Purple finches can also feed on hophornbeam seeds from the eastern hophornbeam trees although these are not their preferred food. The trees have thin, leafless branches from which light-brown fruiting clusters grow. The clusters have several flattened, papery bladders and inside them is a ¼-inch long seed the size of a small grain of brown rice.
When purple finches are near, usually a flock of around 10 of them with their short, thick, seed-cracking beaks would fly down from the sky and form a loose flock inside the tree. Each bird then will go from one fruit cluster to another. They would tear the paper bladder, get the seed and grind it before swallowing. From there, they move to the next one available. Feeding time takes about half an hour and then the flock will fly again and disappear.
When feeding on flowers, the purple finch crushes the base to get the nectar leaving the upper part still in good condition. When feeding on fruits, it normally eats the seeds instead of the pulp.
At bird feeders, purple finches will eat seeds and mealworms. A mealworm is actually the larvae stage of the darkling beetle. They need to be refrigerated to keep them in this stage. Mealworms may also be dehydrated. Once dried, they do not need refrigeration. Birds that eat live mealworms will also eat the dehydrated kind as well.
Peanuts also attract birds. You have to take out the nutmeat beforehand, though, to let the birds eat easily and conveniently. If you cut them into small pieces, the better for the birds.