General: The House
Finch was originally an inhabitant to the west coast of the U.S. and Mexico
but has been introduced to the east coast. According to Audubon, in the
1940’s caged House Finches were
in New York City and Long Island, New York. Since that time, the House Finch
has established new territory along the Atlantic coast. House Finches were
introduced to Oahu from San Francisco sometime before 1870. They had become
abundant on all the major Hawaiian Islands by 1901. As with all such events,
unintended consequences have occurred. Competition for food and habitat
resulted in East coast populations of native Purple Finch and the invasive
House Sparrow to decline.
With its increased territory and
adaptability, the total House Finch population across North America is
estimated between 267 million and 1.4 billion individuals.
House Finches nest in many
different places from man-made structures to trees to rock ledges. They will
use abandoned nests of other birds. Overall width of the nest is 3-7 inches,
with the inside cup 1-3 inches across and up to 2 inches deep.
female lays 2 to 6 pale blue to white eggs speckled with fine black and pale
purple markings. The eggs are about .6” long and ½” wide. The chicks hatch
in 13 to 14 days and are naked except for sparse white down along feather
tracts. They fledge in 12 to 19 days.
House Finches can have two or more broods per year.
In captivity House Finches have lived as long as 11 years.
Finches are about the same size as House Sparrows but more slender. They
measure 5.1” – 5.5” long and with a wingspan between 7.9” – 9.8”. They weigh
½ oz - 1 oz.
Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast,
with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females are plain
grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face.
The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments
contained in its food. Because of this, sometimes orange or yellowish male
House Finches will be observed.
Habitat: House Finches
inhabit city parks, backyards, urban centers, farms, and forest edges across
the continent. In the western U.S., House Finches native habitat is desert,
grassland and open woods. They are frequent late fall and winter visitors to
my upstate NY backyard birdfeeder.
Native range was west coast from Mexico to Canada east to Texas and
Nebraska. The east coast population is north to Maine and Canada south to
Florida and west to the Mississippi.
These birds are mainly permanent residents; some eastern birds migrate
Diet: House Finches eat
almost exclusively plant materials, seeds, buds and fruits. In orchards,
House Finches eat cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries,
blackberries, and figs.
Wootton, JT. (1987). "Interspecific
Competition between Introduced House Finch Populations and Two Associated
Passerine Species". pages 325–331.
Cornell Lab of
R.; Gauthreaux, Sidney A. (1991). "Partial Migration and Differential Winter
Distribution of House Finches in the Eastern United States"