House Finch

Scientific Name: Haemorhous mexicanus

Family: Finches

Description: Adaptable, colorful, and cheery-voiced, House Finches are common from coast to coast today, familiar visitors to backyard feeders. Native to the Southwest, they are recent arrivals in the East. New York pet shop owners, who had been selling the finches illegally, released their birds in 1940 to escape prosecution; the finches survived, and began to colonize the New York suburbs. By 50 years later they had advanced halfway across the continent, meeting their western kin on the Great Plains.

Habitat: Cities, suburbs, farms, canyons. Original habitat was probably streamside trees and brush in dry country, woodland edges, chaparral, other semi-open areas. Now most commonly associated with humans in cities, towns, and farmland, especially in areas with lawns, weedy areas, trees, buildings. Avoids unbroken forest or grassland.

Feeding Behavior: Forages on ground, while perching in weeds, or up in trees and shrubs. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks. Will come to feeders for seeds, especially sunflower seeds, and to hummingbird feeders for sugar-water.

Diet: Mostly seeds, buds, berries. Almost all of diet is vegetable matter. Feeds mainly on weed seeds. Other important items include buds and flower parts in spring, berries and small fruits in late summer and fall. Also eats a few insects, mostly small ones such as aphids. Young are fed on regurgitated seeds.

Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 2-6. Pale blue, with black and lavender dots mostly at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 13-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12-15 days after hatching. Up to 3 broods per year, perhaps sometimes more.

Nesting: Pairs may begin to form within flocks in winter, and some paired birds may remain together all year. In breeding season, male performs flight-song display, singing while fluttering up with slow wingbeats and then gliding down. Male feeds female during courtship and incubation. Males may sing at any time of year, and females also sing during spring. Nest: Wide variety of sites, especially in conifers, palms, ivy on buildings, cactus, holes in manmade structures, averaging about 12-15' above the ground. Sometimes use sites such as cavities, hanging planters, old nests of other birds. Nest (built mostly by female) is open cup of grass, weeds, fine twigs, leaves, rootlets, sometimes with feathers, string, or other debris added.

Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12-15 days after hatching. Up to 3 broods per year, perhaps sometimes more.

Conservation Status: Now abundant over much of North America. In some parts of East, may be competing with Purple Finches to the detriment of the latter. Local populations in some areas have been hard hit by a bacterial infection called conjunctivitis, which swells their eyes shut and makes it difficult for them to feed themselves.

Notes: Images captured in Pedernales Falls State Park.

ATTRIBUTION: All of the bird images in this post are copyrighted and are the exclusive property of Terry B. Kahler. Reproduction without explicit written consent is prohibited. Some of the information contained in this section was taken from the National Audubon Society website and is being used under their terms of use. Redistribution from this site is prohibited.

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