Living Bird Magazine
House FinchHaemorhous mexicanus
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across.More ID Info
Find This Bird
You can find House Finches by looking around settled habitats, such as city parks, urban centers, residential backyards, farms, and forest edges. Gregarious and social, House Finches are found in noisy groups that are hard to miss if present. Look for House Finches feeding on the ground or at bird feeders, or perching high in nearby trees.
- Camachuelo Mejicano (Spanish)
- Roselin familier (French)
Fill your backyard feeders with small, black oil sunflower seed. If House Finches discover your feeders, they might bring flocks of 50 or more birds with them. Find out more about what this bird likes to eat and what feeder is best by using the Project FeederWatch Common Feeder Birds bird list.
- Cool Facts
- The House Finch was originally a bird of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (“Hollywood finches”). They quickly started breeding and spread across almost all of the eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years.
- The total House Finch population across North America is staggering. Scientists estimate between 267 million and 1.4 billion individuals.
- House Finches were introduced to Oahu from San Francisco sometime before 1870. They had become abundant on all the major Hawaiian Islands by 1901.
- The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. This is why people sometimes see orange or yellowish male House Finches. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps raising the chances they get a capable mate who can do his part in feeding the nestlings.
- House Finches feed their nestlings exclusively plant foods, a fairly rare occurrence in the bird world. Many birds that are vegetarians as adults still find animal foods to keep their fast-growing young supplied with protein.
- The oldest known House Finch was a female, and at least 11 years, 7 months old when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in New York in 1985, the same state where she had been banded in 1973.