In Scope: House Finch

house finch male

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20

   

   A flash of red in a nearby tree catches my eye even as a beautiful melody reaches my ear.  I grab my binoculars and look skyward - and spot the singer high in the tree, at the very top!  Sure enough, my suspicions are confirmed...its a male House Finch!  His beautiful song is matched by the beauty of his ruby red feathers.  His feathers are vibrant red, as if stained with red berry juice or paint.  Maybe its because the Easter season is upon us, making the Story of Easter uppermost in my mind; but as I look at this little House Finch's red feathers, I think of Jesus' sacrifice, when He poured out His Blood for our sins.

    The male House Finch tosses his head back once more, singing a lovely melody.  He's obviously trying to get the attention of someone special.  I search the tree to find the subject of his affection and find a little brown female, looking shy and sweet.  While his eyes and mine are trained on the female House Finch, the male hops closer to her.  Then, he flies to the feeder, grabs one seed and returns to his place at her side.  With ceremonious display, the male leans over to the female, profferring the seed, which is gladly accepted.  The pair chatter for a minute or two, then return to foraging for food, among the branches and at our feeders.  During this time, I snap some photos - then both finches continue on their way together.

 

house finch pair

The male House Finch feeding the female...

 

   This was my first experience witnessing the wonderful bond between House Finches as a pair - it was a sweet and remarkable sight I think I'll always remember.  And since spring is in the air, I thought it would be appropriate to feature the House Finch in this month's In Scope. 

 

Interesting Facts

 

    Did you know....

  • The original range of the House Finch consisted of the Western U.S. and Mexico, but in 1940, a few of these finches were released in Long Island, New York after their captures couldn't not sell them.  Thus, the House Finch was introduced to the Eastern U.S. and southern Canada and is now found there year round.  House Finches were also introduced to the Hawaiian Island of Oaho in the mid to late 1800's.  Today they are common residents over much of the State of Hawaii.

  • In Hawaii, the House Finch is also called the Linnet or the Papaya Eater.

  • The red colored plumage of the male House Finch comes from what they eat.  The red pigment comes from plant carotids.  The redder they are, the more red pigment rich foods they've been eating during the time when they molt their feathers and grow new ones.  For that reason, based on the abundance of red foods in the male House Finches diet, they can range in color from yellow, to orange, to bright red.

  • House Finches are prolific breeders.  For that reason, the population of House Finches in North America is enormous - between 267 and 1.4 billion birds.

  • From hatching, House Finches are fed an herbivores diet.  They do not raise their young on animal proteins (insects and such) like so many other birds do.

 

Gardening For and Feeding House Finches

 

house finch pair at feeder 

The male House Finch at one of our feeders.... 

You can see the female in the background (bottom left of the photo).

 

    House Finches mainly eat seeds and fruit, and a little bit of insects.  They are easy to please both at the feeder and in the garden...

Gardening

 

    House Finches love a variety of fruit and seed bearing plants.  Here are a few of their favorites:

 

Annual Sunflowers

Cherries

Peaches

Plums

Blackberries

Strawberries

 

Feeding

 

    At the feeder, House Finches love:

 

Sunflower seed

niger seed

white millet

 

    House Finches also appreciate a bird bath for drinking and an occasional bath! 

 

house finch pair 

The male and female House Finch together. 

The male is singing to her in this picture while she is looking straight at me!

 

Zoom In: Species Profile

 

    The scientific name of the House Finch is Haemorhous mexicanus.  This small bird is 5 - 6 inches in length, about the size of a sparrow.  The male of the species is brightly orange or red colored on his crown, chest and at the base of its tail.   Juvenile House Finch males are most often more orange or yellow than red.  The female is mostly brown in color, with a solid tan head and streaking and striping on her light tan underside.

 

    The voice of the House Finch is made up of multiple songs and calls.  Often House Finches can be heard singing a long series of sweet warbled notes and calls...and also a 'zeee' or 'chirp' call.  It is characteristic for this species to sing from a conspicuous perch - the top of a tree or some such high perch for a long time.  Males sing for much of the year, not just during the breeding season, though no doubt this is they sing most at that time of year.  Female House Finches also sing.

 

    House Finches eat plant material almost exclusively.  They enjoy fruit (including berries), nuts, seeds, flower buds, as well as an occasional small insect, like aphids.  As mentioned above, the young are fed a strictly herbivorous diet.

 

    The preferred habitat of the House Finch includes deserts, shrubby areas, orchards, gardens, agricultural fields and residential areas (suburbia) - especially where redwood, cedar or Douglas fir forests have been logged and become residential.

 

    The nest of the House Finch is a woven cup located in a variety of places, including bushes, trees or buildings.  The female lays 3 to 5 very light blue eggs sparingly speckled or streaked with black or purple.  House Finch pairs breed 2 to 4 in a season.

 

    The House Finch's range is across much of the Western United States, the Midwest, Southern Canada and the Eastern U.S.  The House Finch can also be found in Mexico and Hawaii.

 

Activities

 

    This month I've created a House Finch coloring page for you in a free PDF.  Simply click here to download, then print and enjoy !

 

Devotional

 

house finch male

Male House Finch...

 

      The Easter season is upon us, the time when we reflect on what Jesus did for us on the cross and how He rose again and lives forever!  As I mentioned before, I chose to feature the House Finch this month because their red feathers remind me so much of Jesus' blood shed for us on the cross - and their lively song reminds me of the new life and joy He gives us when He comes into our hearts. This month and always, let's allow our thoughts to dwell on Jesus' Great Love for us and the amazing Miracle of His resurrection.

 

    Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life, the one Who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?"

 

                                - John 11:25 NIV

 

    "After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and ther Mary went to look at the tomb.  There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, adn his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.  The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified.  He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay."

                                 - Matthew 28:1-5 NIV 

 

    In conclusion, this is my prayer for all of you.... 

 

    "I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how  wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

 

                                 - Ephesians 3:16 - 19 NIV

 

    Happy Easter!  God bless you!

 

    By, Jessi Wasell