Townsend's Finch

Spiza townsendi

Townsend’s finch, also called the Townend’s bunting or Spiza townsendi, is an unknown species of Dickcissel that was reported only twice, once in Pennsylvania, the other in Ontario. The first account of Townsend’s finch was by John Kirk on May 11th, 1833, who found the specimen in what is now Chester County in southeastern Pennsylvania. John Kirk’s well-known colleague, John James Audubon, illustrated the bird in his famous encyclopedia, The Birds of America. It had a sparrow-like body, with a strong, cone-shaped bill, had a white throat and grey chest, which was unlike any known bird species in the area. The identity of the Townsend’s finch was controversial, with people theorizing it may have been a mutant or perhaps a hybrid, although its appearance is so distinct that it seems to be its own species. The Townsend's finch, if it ever existed, was thought to be long extinct. Then, in September of 2014, Canadian explorer and birdwatcher Kyle Blaney spotted a bird he couldn't identify in Prince Edward Point National Wildlife Area in Prince Edward County, off Lake Ontario. He took six photographs of the animal before it flew away. The bird matched the appearance of Audubon’s illustration perfectly, with the white throat, grey plumage and conical beak.

Audubon's original painting

Audubon's original painting

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos

One of Kyle Blaney's photos