Wednesday, August 7, 2013

House Finch

House finches, Haemorhous mexicanus, are one of my favorite bird feeder birds. The general curious nature and spark of color provides an enjoying viewing experience. They tend to collect at feeders in small groups and sit perfectly still while they shell seeds with their large beaks, making them great birds for children and adults alike to sit and watch for extended periods of time.

Male house finch harvesting some food

House finches can now be found across the continental United States, however, that is not their natural range. They are actually native to the deserts, grasslands, shrub lands and open forests of the western United States. In 1870, they were introduced to Hawaii from San Francisco and became abundant on all major island by the early 1900s. In 1940, a small group house finches was released on Long Island, New York, where they spread quickly and have now become a staple siting at feeders. They are commonly found in city parks, backyards, and urban centers across the continent. They are so prevalent, scientists predict there is somewhere between 260 million and 1.4 billion individuals across North America!

Two male house finches

House finches show sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females are noticeably different. Males have a beautiful rosy red coloration on the head and breast, while the females are a plain gray-brown. All birds, however, can't make their own red and yellow colorations directly. Male house finches actually get their red color from the pigments contained in its food during molt. The more pigment in the food, the redder the male. The redder the male, the sexier, for females typically mate with the reddest male the can set their eyes on.

Interesting tid-bits
  • Nestling's diets are not supplemented with insects, but instead are fed only plant materials. This is a relatively rare behavior compared to other bird species.
  • Male house finches are known to feed their female counterparts during courtship rituals
  • Usually breeds 2+ times between February and August.
  • To combat casualties due to nest mite infestations, the mother will often lay eggs of one gender for each brood, increasing the chance of survival.
  • A victim of Brown-headed Cowbirds, a brood parasite, but since cowbirds require a supplement of insects in their diet, the young rarely survive in house finch nests.


  1. I love the orange variants of these sociable little guys. For the most part, I have purple finches that come in small flocks, along with gold finches. But I have noticed lately that house finches have found my feeders.
    Enjoyed all your great information!

    1. From where I am originally from, I saw more purple and gold finches as well. After I moved out west, house finches are everywhere! Thanks for the comment! I enjoyed all your feeders and advise on your blog. I plan on reading through!