About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
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Sunday, January 23, 2011

House Finches: Those Year-round Red Heads

A male House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) perc...Image via Wikipedia
Hi, I recently started feeding our winter birds here in Flat Rock, Mi. I've seen all the usual winter birds listed here. I saw the other day that all I can do is describe it as similiar in size to a sparrow, but with a very rosey-blush color on it's chest and cap. I immediately thought of the Grosbeak, but the rose color was just that...a pale rose blush but pronounced enough that you could see it. All the Grosbeaks I've see have a deep hue, almost red...and they didn't seem similar in size either. Do you know what this could've been? We're using regular bird seed with lots of nut mixture and suet with heavy peanut content. Attracts a lot of birds we usually don't see...especially the Blue Jays and Cardinals! Love it!

The House Finch or Purple Finch immediately come to mind. If your trying to identify a bird that looks similar to a Pine Grosbeak you can go to http://www.allaboutbirds.org/ and type in the name. At the top and bottom of the page it usually has a place to click for the species that look similar.

In Michigan, if you have your feeders filled with WBU No-Mess Blend, sunflower, safflower or Nyjer® seed, the chances are good that one of the red finches of winter is probably a regular visitor to your yard.

The odds are best for a visit by the ubiquitous House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus. These 6″, talkative little birds get their name from their habit of hanging around houses. They build their nests in the hanging baskets, wreaths, or in trees, and their cheery warble or a variety of chirps is a constant around the bird feeders.

The amount of red the finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments consumed in its food during molt. They have slight white wing bands, a brownish red head with a pink chest that has brown streaking. They also appear to have a sleek body and stand tall.

Once restricted to the West, this talented songster became firmly established throughout all of eastern North America. In 1940, they were illegally captured in California and imported to New York by pet dealers. Fearing prosecution, the dealers released their “Hollywood Finches” on Long Island in 1940. Since then the finches have spread to all corners of the east and have even rejoined their relatives in the west.

House Finches are always exciting visitors to your feeders. These finches have a vegetarian diet like most finches. They do not rely on insects during the summer nesting season and continue to eat seeds all year-round.

Source: Wild Birds Unlimited BOTM
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5 comments:

Marcia said...

I have noticed that these guys are feeder hogs. The chickadees will come, grab a seed, then leave. The house finch will perch themselves there and stay there for as long as they feel like it....

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

I've never understood why the chickadees take a seed, hide a seed, take a seed, eat a seed, take a seed, hide a seed. Doesn't it make more sense to sit and enjoy a meal?

When I watch the window feeder I'm always yelling at the chickadees to sit down and enjoy a good meal. Why rush off?

And I'm delighted in the spring when the House Finches bring their babies to the window feeder. The babies stomp around doing a feed me dance and the parents just sit and eat in front of them until they get the idea. Sometimes it takes awhile. The cats love it!

Thank you for the comment. Sarah

BigBrotherTrucker said...

I've noticed two of these here in the south plains of west Texas. One has a brighter cap and chest than the other. The other's color is a darker red rose color. This one does not have tail feathers. We have had to put up two other feeders to keep other birds happy. They are however great to hear early in the morning. Sometimes more than an hour before sunrise. But this is the first time I have ever seen them. And it has been so hot this year I figured they were desert type birds.

Melodie McArdle said...

We've just started seeing these at our finch feeder for the first time ever! I leave the finch feeder out all year long but get no feeders from it in the winter, which is now. But just lately I'm going thru finch feed daily! They are eating like crazy and not only them but the smaller woodpeckers are eating the finch food too! We are in Calgary, Alberta Canada and never thought we'd see finches in the winter as we usually see gold finches in summer, but no finches in winter. Is this a little out of their way, are they lost or did they not fly south? Again, I've never seen finches during the winter, although it's been a mild winter so far! thanks for any comments on how far north they are this winter etc.

Anonymous said...

I have two of these pecking at my three story window,in Paulding County Ga.