Our resident house finch pair, Carpodacus mexicanus, definitely deserves a bit of Cochise County publicity. After all, these birds hang out on our property every month of the year, brighten the place considerably, and generally help make this a place worth living. Oddly, though, I couldn’t find a post on these cheerful feathered folk.
An oversight? Possibly. Stranger things have happened.
At any rate, Mr. & Mrs. Finch popped up in the mesquite tree just outside my bedroom window today, begging to have their pictures taken. Compiling the earlier snapshots took a while, but hey, we’re good to go.
Note: Just FYI, some of the online sources differ when it comes to the house finch’s taxonomy. One authority considers the bird a member of the Haemorhus genus while others (who seem to be in the majority) prefer Carpodacus.
This species can be found pretty much all over the United States and down into Mexico plus a bit up into Canada. However, I have to say that only here, in southeastern Arizona, have we seen them “up close and personal” on a regular basis. Of course, they really haven’t been that widespread all that long. According to all-birds.com,
House finches were originally a resident of the southwestern U.S. In the 1940s, called Hollywood finches, they were being sold illegally as pets. To avoid prosecution, vendors and owners released them into the wild, and the birds quickly spread across the country.
House finches will apparently chow down on insects from time to time but are primarily seed eaters, which explains their attraction to our off grid acreage. Even without the bird feeder we used for just five months this year, there are seeds in abundance in this area.
All of the males we’ve seen to date have noticeably red plumage on the heads, upper breasts, and on top of the rump. This is a good thing; girl house finches seem to prefer mating with the reddest available male. Some sites state that this is because the females see ultra-red males as good providers. Since the color of the males is determined by diet, that makes sense. (Some are not red at all but simply a pale yellow where the red would normally be.) Personally, I suspect it’s simply because redheads rock.
My wife is a redhead; I’d better say that.
Our local finches appreciate their humans, too. At least, they’re so far the only species we’ve seen nesting in either of the two birdhouses I built a few years back.
The females are relatively drab in color (no redheads), a bit smaller than the males, and–from what we’ve seen, anyway–extremely loyal to their mates. Except when nest duties keep her at home, lady finch follows her mister wherever he goes.
Here’s a brief video of one male. This fellow looks a lot redder than the one we’ve seen around here most recently. It could be a different bird altogether…or could it be possible that the same bird might be more brightly colored when food is super-abundant (as it was last spring when this video was taken) and duller in appearance when the food supply is a bit depleted? After all, there’s supposedly a clear link between diet and coloration, so why not?
Perhaps the best photo of a house finch I’ve taken to date is the following view of a “red hot” male, perched high on a mesquite tree branch with a backdrop of brilliant blue sky. This one is quite slender, not starving but most likely working hard to keep his family fed. (The photo date was July 9, 2012.)
A year later, we had a bird feeder up and running for five months or so…with disastrous results. All of the finches got fat, but worse than that, so did the harvester ants. In the end, we had to have the ants exterminated. The feeder is now filled with glass gems rather than seeds, but the finches seem to be hanging on to their portly proportions for the time being.
When next summer rolls around and they’re once again scrambling to keep nestlings fed, they’ll most likely trim back down. Mother Nature’s one efficient Weight Watcher.
I’m pretty sure I had a page published on the house finch, Carpodacus mexicana, when I was writing over at HubPages. It might have been deleted during the migration process to Ghost32writer. But if it was, it’s no harm, no foul. The previously published photos were still readily available in my computer, and I wanted an excuse to post a few pics from today’s photo op, anyway.
The very first house finch photos were taken on May 8, 2012. That time, shooting through the kitchen window screen produced an effect not unlike an oil painting.
At the time, I had no idea what the species might be, so the file was simply titled, “Red Songbird”.