Photo: Jeanette Tasey/Great Backyard Bird Count Participant

House Finch

Haemorhous mexicanus

Adaptable, colorful, and cheery-voiced, House Finches are common from coast to coast today, familiar visitors to backyard feeders. Native to the Southwest, they are recent arrivals in the East. New York pet shop owners, who had been selling the finches illegally, released their birds in 1940 to escape prosecution; the finches survived, and began to colonize the New York suburbs. By 50 years later they had advanced halfway across the continent, meeting their western kin on the Great Plains.
Conservation status Now abundant over much of North America. In some parts of East, may be competing with Purple Finches to the detriment of the latter. Local populations in some areas have been hard hit by a bacterial infection called conjunctivitis, which swells their eyes shut and makes it difficult for them to feed themselves.
Family Finches
Habitat Cities, suburbs, farms, canyons. Original habitat was probably streamside trees and brush in dry country, woodland edges, chaparral, other semi-open areas. Now most commonly associated with humans in cities, towns, and farmland, especially in areas with lawns, weedy areas, trees, buildings. Avoids unbroken forest or grassland.
Adaptable, colorful, and cheery-voiced, House Finches are common from coast to coast today, familiar visitors to backyard feeders. Native to the Southwest, they are recent arrivals in the East. New York pet shop owners, who had been selling the finches illegally, released their birds in 1940 to escape prosecution; the finches survived, and began to colonize the New York suburbs. By 50 years later they had advanced halfway across the continent, meeting their western kin on the Great Plains.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • juvenile
  • adult female
  • adult male
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

Forages on ground, while perching in weeds, or up in trees and shrubs. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks. Will come to feeders for seeds, especially sunflower seeds, and to hummingbird feeders for sugar-water.


Eggs

4-5, sometimes 2-6. Pale blue, with black and lavender dots mostly at larger end. Incubation is by female, about 13-14 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12-15 days after hatching. Up to 3 broods per year, perhaps sometimes more.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest about 12-15 days after hatching. Up to 3 broods per year, perhaps sometimes more.

Diet

Mostly seeds, buds, berries. Almost all of diet is vegetable matter. Feeds mainly on weed seeds. Other important items include buds and flower parts in spring, berries and small fruits in late summer and fall. Also eats a few insects, mostly small ones such as aphids. Young are fed on regurgitated seeds.


Nesting

Pairs may begin to form within flocks in winter, and some paired birds may remain together all year. In breeding season, male performs flight-song display, singing while fluttering up with slow wingbeats and then gliding down. Male feeds female during courtship and incubation. Males may sing at any time of year, and females also sing during spring. Nest: Wide variety of sites, especially in conifers, palms, ivy on buildings, cactus, holes in manmade structures, averaging about 12-15' above the ground. Sometimes use sites such as cavities, hanging planters, old nests of other birds. Nest (built mostly by female) is open cup of grass, weeds, fine twigs, leaves, rootlets, sometimes with feathers, string, or other debris added.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Migration

Mostly permanent resident in West, although some may move to lower elevations for winter. In the East, some are permanent residents but others migrate long distances south in fall. Migrates in flocks, mostly by day.

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Migration

Mostly permanent resident in West, although some may move to lower elevations for winter. In the East, some are permanent residents but others migrate long distances south in fall. Migrates in flocks, mostly by day.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A chirp call like that of a young House Sparrow. The song is an extensive series of warbling notes ending in a zeee, canarylike but without the musical trills and rolls. Sings from a high tree, antenna, or similar post for prolonged periods.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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