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House FinchHouse Finch
Male House Finches display extreme color variation, ranging from pale yellow to bright red. The depth of red coloring in each male depends on the amount of carotenoid pigments in the bird’s food sources during the molting period. Studies show that females prefer the brightest and reddest males; presumably the hue and intensity of color are indications of the male's fitness.

The House Finch is an abundant bird often associated closely with human habitation. Although the native western population occurs in a wide variety of habitats ranging from undisturbed desert to chaparral and open coniferous forests to cities, range expansions have been made possible by man's changes to the environment. The House Finch prefers edge habitat, and even in desert areas, these finches require a source of water, as well as structures for perching and nesting. These structures may be small conifers or buildings. During the past hundred years, western populations have expanded north into British Columbia and into central and eastern Montana, as suitable habitat was created by man. Over most of its range, House Finch abundance is closely correlated with the size of the local human population.

Eastern populations descend from the 1940 release of illegally caged birds, which were probably trapped in the Los Angeles area, by pet shop owners on Long Island, New York. The eastern population experienced exponential growth because of the species' high fecundity and the long-distance dispersal of juveniles. From Long Island, House Finches spread north into southern Ontario, south to northern Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and west into the Great Plains, where they are now meeting the western population. Interestingly, the introduced eastern populations have developed migratory behavior that is absent in western House Finches. Birds from the Northeast and Great Lakes area now migrate south in winter.
House Finch Range Map

The species was introduced on the Hawaiian Islands sometime before 1870. There, this finch is known as the papaya bird, which stems from the bird’s preference for that food. Hawaiian males lack the red color of mainland birds and, at one time, were thought to be a separate species; however, their lack of red color is due to diet.

Everywhere, the House Finch is a gregarious bird, forming loose flocks in breeding season, and flocks that may number into the hundreds in the winter. They roost in close proximity to each other, sometimes touching. These vegetarian birds are strongly attracted to feeders, where they prefer small sunflower seeds. At other times of the year they feed on buds, seeds, and fruits—they feed on so much fruit that in parts of the West, they may be considered pests.

Description: House Finches are slim, sparrow-sized birds (5.0 to 5.75 inches in length) with short, stubby conical bills and square-tipped tails. Males typically have a "headband" of bright red on the forehead and supercilium. Chin, throat, and upper breast are red as is the rump. The top and back of the head and back are brown with faint darker brown streaks. Wings and tail are also brown. Lower breast and undertail area are white with broad brown streaks. Because of color variabilities, the pattern of red coloring (light red, orange, or yellow in some birds) rather than the actual hue distinguishes House Finch males from their similar cousins, the Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus) and Cassin's Finch (C. cassinii). Purple and Cassin's finches lack the strong facial pattern of a House Finch, which is created by the sharp separation of the "headband" from the throat by a brown cheek patch; the backs of Purple and Cassin's Finches are tinged reddish with brown streaks. The reddish color of these species' throat and breast diffuses into a largely unstreaked white lower breast and belly, whereas the male House Finch's red throat and upper breast are more sharply separated from the white lower breast and belly, both of which are strongly streaked with brown.

Females and immature male House Finches are faintly streaked brown from forehead to rump. Wings and tail are brown. The chin, throat, and breast are uniformly streaked brown on white. Compared to the Purple and Cassin's females, the House Finch's streaking is less defined, and the face is unpatterned. Like Cassin's, but unlike Purple Finches, House Finches have streaked undertail coverts. Both male and female House Finches are slimmer, shorter billed, and have more square-tipped, less-notched tails than the other two species.

Attracting Finches

Visit Shaw Creek Bird Supply to see our selection of House Finch Feeders.

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