The House Finch is a moderately sized finch bird that has increased its range in North America in mid-twentieth century. It originally hails from the western side of North America, but it was recently introduced to the eastern side, as well as Hawaii. Compared to other newly introduced birds like European Starling and House Sparrow, the House Finch was more warmly received, mainly due to its bright red head and breast of males, and its lengthy, twittering song.
House Finches have a small body, with an average body length of 4.9 to 5.9 inches and a wingspan of 7.9 to 9.8 inches. Their average body weight is 0.74 ounces.
They have big bills and lengthy, flat heads. They have short wings, which consequently make their tail appear long by comparison. Unlike other finches that usually exhibit uniquely notched tails, House Finches have a shallow notch in their tails. They have lengthy, share-tipped brown tail and a dull-brown color across the back, with some shading into intense gray on the wing feathers. The flanks are commonly streaked, while the breast and belly feathers may occasionally show streaks.
Adult males show a rosy red coloration around the visage and upper breast, which sometimes extends to the belly and down the back. They also have a streaky brown back, belly and tail. The intensity of the coloration among males differs with the seasons. When in flight, the red lower back becomes apparent.
The females, on the other hand, have a plain greyish plumage, coupled with broad, blurry streaks and an unclearly marked face.
Distribution and Habitat
Their preferred habitat locations are urban and suburban areas in eastern North America, as well as different semi-open areas in the west from southern Canada to northern Florida. They also make appearances in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Due to their fondness of human created habitats, they are often found in city parks, backyards, urban centers, farms, and forests borders across North America. In the western side of the U.S., they can be observed in their preferred habitat locations of deserts, grasslands, chaparral, open woods, and coniferous forests at elevations below 6,000 feet.
They are generally non-migratory birds, although some northern and eastern birds move toward the southern edges of the breeding range.
House Finches are usually found foraging on the ground or in vegetation. Their diet primarily consists of plants, mainly grains, seeds and berries. They consume weed seeds like nettle and dandelion in great quantities, while some of their wild food options include wild mustard seeds, knotweed, thistle, mulberry, poison oak, cactus, and many other species. They also consume some small insects such as aphids.
They commonly visit bird feeders throughout the year, especially if the feeders have sunflower of nyjer seeds. As a matter of fact, they would gather around nyjer sock feeders. They feed on black oil sunflower over the bigger, striped sunflower seeds, millet, and milo.
Although they are known to damage orchard fruits, where they get commercially grown grain, they are not considered as significant pests.
House Finches are sociable birds that love to gather at bird feeders or perch high in trees. They are also often seen feeding on the ground, on weed stalks or in trees. Because of this sociable behavior, they are rarely seen alone outside of the breeding season.
Their movement is quite slow, showcasing a bouncy flight like many other finches. They would sit still as they crush the seed shells by rapidly biting them.
Their song is a fast, high-pitched warble and other kinds of chirps.
During courtship, the males would touch bills with the female. This will then be followed by food presentation. If the female behaves like a hungry chick, the male will then feed her. This feeding behavior also manifests during the breeding and incubation of both eggs and the chicks. The female House Finches are commonly attracted to males that exhibit the most intense red pigmentation in their heads.
They build their nests in cavities, which include openings in buildings, plants, and other outdoor paraphernalia’s that are shaped like cup. Occasionally, they would steal the nests built by other birds. They may recycle the same nests for the succeeding broods.
The female constructs the nest in a span of two days, in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees, or in buildings. She uses twigs, stems, leaves, rootlets, wool and debris in building the nest, forming these materials into a cup shape. She then uses finer materials for the nest lining. The nest has an approximate width of 3-7 inches, with the inside cup 1-3 inches across and up to 2 inches deep.
The average size of the clutch is 2 to 6 eggs, with about 1 to 6 broods rising from this clutch. The incubation period for the eggs spans between 13 to 14 days, and the nestling period is from 12 to 19 days.
The House Finch is categorized under the ‘Least Concern’ category of the IUCN Red List. It is quite common across its range, except some areas in western North America. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, its population increased between the years 1966 and 2010. œ
Its estimated global breeding population is 45 million, with 76 percent living in the U.S., 21 percent in Mexico, and 3 percent in Canada. It rates 6 over 20 on the Continental Concern Scale and is not included on the 2012 Watch List.
A disease called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis is considered a major threat to the species’ population.