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.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sparrow with red on the head and back

I live 3 mi. N. of Mason, and have been seeing what looks like a common city sparrow, but having a distinct red shading across its shoulders and fading towards the tail. I have generally seen these birds in the company of cardinals. Any idea what species this is?

House Finch males try to attract a female mate by performing displays,
such as the "butterfly flight", singing, and courtship feeding
Cardinals and House Finches tend to hang out at the same feeding stations. Today House Finches are a familiar sight at mid-Michigan bird feeders. Sunflower and safflower are two of their favorite foods.

These talkative little 6 inch birds get their name from their habit of hanging around human houses. Their cheery warble and variety of chirps are a constant around the feeders and you may find their nests in your hanging baskets, wreaths, or nearby pine trees.

Adult males are rosy red around the face and upper breast, with streaky brown back, belly and tail. Adult females aren’t red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face. The amount of red the male finch has can vary depending on the amount of carotenoid pigments he eats during his fall molt. Many brilliant red, orange, and yellow color displays of birds are the result of carotenoid pigments deposited in the feathers.

House Finches may be confused with Purple Finches. Purple Finches have a more reddish color on their upper parts and are not streaked on their abdomens.

Related Articles:
Compare House Finches and Purple Finches http://bit.ly/oOogOf
What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/vn2HK3
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/rT5Hfj
Why male and females are a different color http://bit.ly/ueILUf
House Finch feeding his baby http://goo.gl/g4svn
Remove all winter wreaths before finches begin nesting in them http://goo.gl/OeyOS

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