Intro: House finches are wild birds that can be found throughout the United States and Mexico, and they will regularly visit birdfeeders in balcony gardens. The females are gray-brown and striped, and while the males also have gray-brown stripes on their backs, wings and undersides, their heads, throats and lower backs can range from a light orange-yellow to a deep red color. The males’ red color intensifies with a good, varied diet (the color comes from berries and fruits eaten during molting season). The house finch’s diet consists mainly of seeds, but they will also eat insects and fruit. Their chirps and tweets are pleasing to the ear, and it is especially entertaining to watch male house finches sing, dance and display for females during springtime courtship.
Scientific Name: Carpodacus mexcicanus
Size: 5 to 6 inches long
Habitat: House finches are found in western North America from southern Canada to southern Mexico. In the early 20th century, these birds were illegally sold in New York City as “Hollywood Finches.” Many people released them to avoid getting caught breaking the law. The released “Hollywood Finches” thrived and spread, and now house finches can be found throughout the entire United States year ‘round.
How to Attract: Hang a tube feeder with multiple perches. Include a high-quality birdseed mix containing mostly black oil sunflower seeds (read "How to choose Birdseed" for more information). These finches will also visit thistle feeders. After you hang a tube feeder outside, wait until “scouts” come, and then expect them to visit regularly once they have discovered the free birdseed. House finches are common in suburban and more urban areas, so these may be the first birds that you spot at your birdfeeder. A birdbath may also attract these wild birds, and you will enjoy watching them bathe and play in the water (change the water every day).
Courtship and Breeding: House finches will make their nests on buildings, in your hanging container plants or abandoned nests. Females build nests out of twigs and other small items, and is cup-shaped. They may enter a birdhouse to make a nest (read “How to Build a Birdhouse for House Finches and Sparrows” for a blueprint for making your own birdhouse). Courtship includes displaying, dancing, singing and feeding the female. Each couple will have 10 eggs or more per year; eggs are blue-green and small, with black spots. Fledglings (which have spiky feathers still stuck to their heads) fly from the nest in about two weeks.
Misc. Info: A group of these birds is called a “development.” If a development of house finches regularly visits your birdfeeders, make sure to keep all container plants away from the feeders. These birds are messy and may eliminate on your plants! This is a good reason for choosing feeders with perches that are not right on top of one another. The perches should be staggered so the birds to not eliminate on each other. Provide plenty of feeding spots; house finches will squawk at each other and fight for a feeding spot. Remember that birdfeeders are also a lot of work to maintain. You will have to refill feeders often and sweep up after the birds. Read more about birdfeeder upkeep in the article “Wild Bird Maintenance.” These birds are susceptible to many diseases, parasites and recurring infections, and may spread disease to other birds that visit your apartment or home balcony.