Bird of the Week: House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

This adorable bird is the most common in North America with an estimated population of 1.4 billion - that is a lot of birds.  You'll notice that these birds come in two colors, the female will be the grey one and the male will have bright red on his chest. The females prefer to mate with males with the most red, and over generations this trait is selected for resulting in males with more and more red. Interestingly, the males can't actually produce this color on their own, they get it from eating red berries and fruits.

House Finch Haemorhous mexicanus Male

Male House Finch showing off his red chest.

 

House Finch Female

Female House Finch looking pretty on blue.

 

These birds love areas with lots of leafy cover to hide from predators, nearby water, and with lots of grass and weeds that have gone to seed to forage on. In our area they are present year-round and like to nest in trees like pines and mulberries. These birds are strict vegetarians eating only seeds, so a bird bath and bird feed is a great way to attract them to your home. House Finches are unique in that they feed their young only seeds. Most birds, even vegetarian birds, feed their young insects for extra protein to fuel growth, but not the House Finch. Keep an eye out for the cherry-red breasted male to let you know there is a nearby flock!

 

A special thanks to Seth Hall for lending his bird expertise.

 

Photo Credits:

Carpodacus meicanus - Madison, Wisconsin, USA-8 CC BY 2.0

House Finch Stratham, NH CC BY-SA 3.0

 

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