Bird of the Week #7: House Finch

Male House Finch in tree

Besides maybe the grackles, the most numerous bird to visit my feeders is the House Finch. Now, you may be thinking that the House Finch is a very ordinary bird and you’re probably right, but like pretty much every single bird I’ve researched for this website, I’ve found that the House Finch is also surprisingly interesting and worth taking a look at.

The House Finch is a surprisingly recent addition to Kansas, with it not being seen in the state until the 1990s. Today, the House Finch is a prolific bird, seen all across the United States in great numbers. Originally, the House Finch was limited in range to Mexico and the southwestern United States, but was imported to the eastern United States as a pet. When the Migratory Bird Treat Act of 1918 was passed, these pet finches were released into the wild and spread from there. They have even been brought over to Hawaii where they also thrive.

Male and female House Finches are easily distinguished. The female is brown and tan streaked all over while the male looks like a version of the female with a red head. The males’ red heads look almost like the bird was dipped in red paint. This red color is caused by diet, with it being possible that the red features will turn yellow.

House finches are also avid singers, with their calls being the one I hear the most. Their song is cheerful, warbly, and can sometimes by chirpy.

House Finches are also very social birds and you will seldom find one alone. I always see them visiting my feeders in groups, usually of about a half dozen. They get along well with other birds and only seem to quarrel over food among themselves. And even then, I have only ever witnessed minor quibbles rather than outright fights. They also don’t seem to mind grouping up with other birds and I’ll often see them stop by with goldfinches or Pine Siskins.

They are probably some of the easiest birds to attract. They love seeds. House Finches will eat just about any seed you put out, barring anything large such as peanuts in shell or black stripe sunflower seeds. They love black oil sunflower seeds, though. They will eat nyjer from nyjer socks or finch feeders, but I find that they’d rather eat sunflower. So, if you have a finch feeder, I’d suggest loading it with fine sunflower seed and just skip the nyjer altogether.

Various finches feed

And seemingly against convention, my House Finches are addicted to safflower seeds. Most of the seed packages I see tell me that safflower is not for finches, but mine goes positively crazy for it. I’ll set out sunflower in one platform feeder, safflower in the other. The safflower platform will be full of House Finches. I’m not sure why they decided safflower is their favorite, maybe there’s some nutritional value they appreciate, but hey, I’m not complaining. Safflower is an awesome bird food.

I specifically use Nutrasaff from Song of America, which they claim is a newer variety. I’ve covered how Song of America isn’t available online, but I’ve found a few different brands on Amazon that seem to sell the same seed. Most other brands seem to call it golden safflower. I’ll have a full article about safflower seeds and their benefits in the near future, but for now, I’ve been impressed with it.

We’re here to talk about the House Finch, right?

Back to it!

House Finches nest in cup-style nests, so you won’t have them breeding in your bird houses. They aren’t terribly picky about where they place their nests, so you might have them building one on your house, which is fun until you have to clean up all their doodoo.

The one problem with having House Finches at your feeders is that they are prone to disease. Specifically, House Finches can catch a disease called House Finch Eye Disease, which you can easily recognize by crusty, inflamed eyes on House Finches that may even render the poor bird blind. This disease has been seen spreading across species, so if you spot a House Finch with a swollen eye, it’s probably a good idea to take down your feeders for a few weeks. I know that’s rough, but it’s for the birds.

Find more information about Finch Eye Disease here.

On a more cheerful note, I love my House Finches. They’re pretty, cheerful, and happy-go-lucky little birds that cause me no issues. Hopefully you’ve had great experiences with these little guys too.

How do you attract House Finches?

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