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State symbols and state animals are selected to represent the cultural heritage and natural bounty of a particular state. In the case of New Hampshire, the purple finch has been its state bird since the legislation was passed in its favor on 25 April 1957. The proposal for the purple finch as the state bird of New Hampshire was put forward on 12 February 1957 by Representative Robert S. Monahan of Hanover. He was opposed in this by Representative Doris M. Smollett of Hapstead, who proposed that the New Hampshire hen be selected instead.
The proposal for the purple finch, however, was supported by the Audubon Society of New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Federation of Garden Clubs and the State Federation of Women's Clubs. The latter had already selected the purple finch as their state symbol back in 1927. After receiving approval from the New Hampshire General Assembly, Governor Lane Dwinell signed the bill into legislation on 25 April 1957 and the purple finch became the state bird of New Hampshire.
In appearance, the purple finch is a small bird with a largish head and a short pointed beak. The male finches show a distinctive rose color on the head, breast and wing bars, and a dark red, mixed with brown streaks, on the nape and back. Female finches are pale brown, gray and white, with well-defined color streaks. Both genders have a white belly, brown wings, white under-tail coverts and a brown notched tail, and make a warbling "pik" sound.
The state bird of New Hampshire is migratory in nature. In the summer, purple finches are mainly found in the southern parts of Canada, and in the winter they migrate to the eastern regions of the United States. Some purple finches also live year-round in the northeastern regions of the United States.
The birds nest in coniferous and deciduous forests, and are known to reside in shrubs, weeds and hedgerows. They breed in the summer. The female purple finches build the nest, taking about eight days to complete it, and then lay four to seven greenish-blue eggs with brown or black flecks. The female bird incubates the eggs for around 13 days, and both parents are involved in feeding and raising the chicks. The chicks develop feathers about 16 days after they have hatched.
The purple finch feeds on fruits, flowers, seeds and insects. Given its predilection for fruits and flowers and the destruction it consequently causes, the state bird of New Hampshire is regarded as a pest by farmers. It is not an endangered bird, but its range is being threatened by urban development and by the introduction of other finches and sparrows.