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Our Backyard Birds: The House Finch


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A House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) perched on a red yucca  flower stalk
House Finch on Yucca

Our Backyard Birds: The House Finch

(Haemorhous mexicanus)

 

Food

You can attract house finches by providing black oil sunflower seeds, nyjer seed, and a good quality birdseed mix. Bird-friendly landscaping that includes seed-bearing flowers, grasses, and berry bushes as well as small fruit trees such as cherries and crabapples is ideal for attracting house finches.


Feeders

Tube feeders and platform feeders are preferred by the House Finch but hopper feeders will work too. They also like to feed on the ground, cleaning up spilled seeds. Sprinkleing a good quality birdseed mix under the feeders will also work.


Appearance

House Finches are small-bodied finches with fairly large beaks and somewhat long, flat heads. The wings are short, making the tail seem long by comparison. Many finches have distinctly notched tails, but the House Finch has a relatively shallow notch in its tail.

Adult males are red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly, and tail. In flight, the red rump is sometimes visible. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face


Information

The House Finch is one of the most common backyard birds, though it was once found only in the western United States. The house finch was introduced to eastern North America in the 1940s. The birds were sold illegally in New York City as "Hollywood Finches". To avoid prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, vendors and owners released the birds into the wild. They have since become common backyard visitors. Around 1870 they were introduced to Hawaii and are now abundant on all its major islands. There are estimated to be a staggering 267 million to 1.7 billion individuals across North America.

During courtship, the male will touch bills with the female. He may then present the female with choice bits of food, and if she mimics the behavior of a hungry chick, he may feed her. The male also feeds the female during breeding and incubation of the eggs, and raising of the young, and the male is the primary feeder of the fledglings. Females are typically attracted to the males with the deepest pigment of red to their head, more so than the occasional orange or yellowish-headed males that sometimes occur.

Nests are typically made in cavities, including openings in buildings, hanging plants, and other cup-shaped outdoor decorations. Sometimes nests abandoned by other birds are used. Nests may be re-used for subsequent broods or in following years. The nest is built by the female, sometimes in as little as two days. It is well made of twigs and debris, forming a cup shape, usually 6 to 9 feet above the ground.

The egg laying usually takes place in the morning, at the rate of one egg per day. The eggs are pale bluish-green with few black spots and a smooth, somewhat glossy surface. The female incubates the eggs for 12 to 14 days. Dandelion seeds are among the preferred seeds fed to the young. Contrary to the way most birds tend to feed their nestlings animal matter to give them the protein necessary to grow, house finches are one of the few birds who feed their young only plant matter.

Water is still one of the most overlooked aspects of backyard birding and even by itself, a simple birdbath can indeed bring in many birds on its own. The hardest part of attracting any kind of bird to the yard is providing a backyard for them to come to and feel safe, basically a way to hide from and even escape from predators. Native trees and bushes, for example, provide a good place for the House finch to come to and hide from predators.

By providing some or all of these things, you have a very good chance of attracting the house finch as well as many other birds that frequent your area.


A male House Finch House Finch(Haemorhous mexicanus) in flight
Flying House Finch

I hope you found the information about the House Finch

and attracting them to your backyard helpful. If you are new to my website or blog, welcome, and thank you for joining us. To stay updated on future Backyard Birding blog posts and receive occasional discounts and newsletters, please subscribe here. Remember to always follow the Nature First and Leave No Trace principles and strive to leave places better than you found them. If you know anyone who loves birds, bird photography, or backyard birding, please share this post with them.

Until next time, keep the sun behind you and the birds in view.


David




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