The official New Hampshire State Bird is the purple finch. It was first adopted as a state symbol during the 1900s. Its history comes from a combination of scientific and folk influences. In 1881, Charles Johnson Maynard published his book Birds of Boston.
He included notes on the purple finches that were new to science at that time. He studied them closely and saw what he believed to be two different species in those birds: one that had white underparts with yellow on its wings, and another which had greenish-yellow underparts.
Those are not color variations we would expect for this type of bird, so they likely collected some bad samples or they had been cross-breeding with house finches.
These scientific findings were challenged by another ornithologist, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, and he didn’t believe that the birds were different species at all. He thought they could be new varieties of a single species.
During this time, there was also a new bird-protection law passed in Massachusetts known as the “little law,” which stated that it was illegal for anyone to kill purple finches because they ate cherries and other fruits from trees without paying for them.
If you did kill one of these purple finches, you would receive a $5 fine or 2 months in prison! So many people took up killing these new state birds just to get revenge for costing them money!
By the 1900s, discoveries had been made about the habits and behavior of the purple finch. Its scientific name was changed to Carpodacus Purpureus. It turns out that these birds did not have a new species after all; they were new color variations within a species.
There are some subtle differences between what we know now as “purple finches” and “house finches.” The male house finches have redder on their heads than purple finches do, but both have a black mask around their eyes.
One easy way to tell them apart is by looking at their beaks; if you see yellow on the face or chest then it’s a house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), which has a more pointed beak. House finches also breed earlier in the year and can be found in flocks, whereas purple finches are usually seen alone or in pairs during migration season.
People were not pleased with these new findings; some wanted to continue believing that they were new species, others wanted to keep them separate by calling them new varieties of one new species, and still, others wanted to call them new species!
By 1920, the scientific community agreed that there was no difference between house finches and purple finches: they were all Carpodacus Purpureus, which means “purplish red-headed.” Both color variations belong to a completely different genus than the house finch (Haemorhous).
When Purple Finch Got Its Official State Bird Status
The New Hampshire State Bird, the purple finch, was adopted as part of a new state bird law that went into effect in 1971. The new “little law” stated that it is illegal to take, buy, or possess any new feathers of these birds unless you are Native American. That means if you want to own a new feather from this species for decoration or some other purpose, you can’t get one without breaking the law!
There seems to be confusion regarding whether this bird is Carpodacus Purpureus and whether the genus Haemorhous belongs within the family Fringillidae. One source says: “They may be distinguished from the House Finch by their reddish-brown caps, lack of white around the eyes, and by their lack of olive in the wings.”
Another source says: “Adult males have brown heads with a faint purple or red sheen. The chests are orange-yellow while females’ chests are grayish-brown.”
A third source says: [o]f the two species in this genus found on the continent, only Carpodacus Purpureus is a common breeder in New Hampshire. Both sexes have brown backs and crowns; adult male’s caps may appear to be pinkish from some angles because of an infrequent reddish sheen…”
We also know that new feathers cannot be obtained for decorative purposes: “It shall be unlawful for any person, except as permitted under RSA 466:4-a, V, to take, possess or transport new feathers of this species.”
New Hampshire State Bird: New Hampshire State Symbol
Why is the New Hampshire state bird called the purple finch?
The purple finch is the official bird of the state of New Hampshire. These birds have made their home in New England for hundreds of years and only actually migrated during harsh winters.
They are popular amongst backyard birders because they love to eat sunflower seeds! Not only do these tiny birds look beautiful with their bright red heads and orange chests, but they have also been the subject of many new scientific discoveries.
To answer this question, we must step back in time to the late eighteenth century when new color variations of birds were discovered. These new color variations were not new species; they were new color variations within a species. There are some subtle differences between what we know now as “purple finches” and “house finches.”
The male house finches have more red on their heads than purple finches do, but both have a black mask around their eyes. One easy way to tell them apart is by looking at their beaks; if you see yellow on the face or chest then it’s a house finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), which is native to the southwest.
If you see red on the face or chest then it’s a purple finch (Carpodacus Purpureus), which is native to New England. So, let’s get back to answering this question: why is the New Hampshire state bird called the purple finch?
In 1788, new color varieties of birds were discovered, and these new color variations became so popular among new Europeans that they wanted to keep them separate by calling them new species.
Others wanted to keep them separate by calling them new varieties of one new species, but still, others wanted to call them new species! By 1920, scientists agreed that there was no difference between house finches and purple finches: both were Carpodacus Purpureus.
The New Hampshire state bird was officially named the purple finch in 1969, but it has been common knowledge that both house finches and purple finches were one species since 1920.
Some Facts About The New Hampshire State Bird
There are many other names for the New Hampshire state bird. Some people call them red caps because of their bright new feather colors and some call them mountain canaries because they live at high altitudes.
They are also sometimes called Vermont minsters. Whatever you call them, these small birds are native to New England.
A New Hampshire state bird’s name says a lot about where it lives and what its habits are. This New Hampshire state symbol is very territorial, marking the boundaries of their new homes with song.
They usually stick to the treetops and avoid the new ground. During mating season, males will puff up their new feathers, fluff them out and then shake their heads to attract new females.
Females lay three to four eggs per new clutch. The New Hampshire state bird diet consists mainly of seeds but they also eat insects for additional protein when possible.