Welcome to our first edition of the Winter Backyard Birding Series! Throughout the next few weeks Michigan Audubon will be highlighting winter birds that you can attract to your yard. The series will include interesting information on the specific birds, their habitat and habits and how to draw them to your backyard. We are very excited about this series and hope you are too!
Spotlight on: The House Finch
The most widely distributed songbird in North America
The House Finch is the most common backyard bird but this wasn't always the case. The House Finch was strictly a bird of the western United States and Mexico until the 1940's when a large batch was shipped to Long Island, New York in hopes to sell these "Hollywood Finches." Sales did not go well and they were released into the wild and the rest is history. Scientists today estimate there are between 267 million to 1.4 billion House Finches in North America.
The House Finch is a relatively small bodied songbird with a large beak, standing 5-5.5 inches tall with a wing span of 8-10 inches, it weighs 0.6-1 ounce.
The males display a rosy-red face, breast and rump with a brown, white and grey body (see picture above). The females are a plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face. Males get their reddish tint from the pigment in their food during molt. This bright red coloring is used to attract females who choose their mate by how vibrant their coloring is. In the female's eyes the reddest male is the best mate.
The House Finch is an extremely adaptable bird and is found in a wide range of habitats such as its native habitat of dry desert, desert grassland, chaparral, oak savannah, stream sides and open coniferous forests. It also adapts to human-created habitats such as buildings, lawns, small conifers, urban centers, barns and stables.
Social & Mating
House Finches are nonmigratory birds. They are extremely social except during mating season. House Finches are monogamous, the female will incubate a brood of 3-6 eggs for 12-14 days. Both parents feed the young for 12-19 days. Unlike most bird species, the House Finch feeds its young strictly plant food. A pair can have 1-3 broods per year depending on the climate they reside in.
Their nests are made out of fine stems, leaves, rootlets, thin twigs, string, wool, and feathers and are found in many different places. They prefer deciduous and coniferous trees along with shrubs but nests have also been found on cactus, rock ledges, in or on building vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy and hanging planters. Nests are 3-7 inches wide and roughly 2 inches deep.
Their diet is widely diversified depending on which habitat they live in. House Finches eat wild mustard seeds, knotweed, thistle, mulberry, poison oak, cactus and many other wild seed species. In orchards they eat cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, blackberries and figs.
* How to Attract House Finches to Your Feeder *
Birders attract House Finches with tube, hopper and platform feeders. Ensuring there are perches available nearby along with medium sized trees or shrubs will make your feeders even more attractive to birds. The best seed to attract the bird is black oil sunflower seeds (versus larger, striped sunflower seeds), nyjer and millet. Provide these few items and the House Finches should be visiting in no time!
We hope you found this information interesting and helpful! As always if you see or attracts any of these birds let us know via Facebook, Twitter, email or phone at 517-641-4277.
Happy backyard birding this winter from Michigan Audubon!
Your Bird Crew,
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