The Residential Finch

Natives of the American West, house finches inhabit foothills, desert canyons and open woodlands, including urban parks and suburban neighborhoods.  During the 1940s, some of these birds were released on Long Island, New York, and, by the mid 1960s, had colonized the New York Metro Area.  According to Audubon's Guide to Birds of the Eastern U.S., published in 1977, house finches could be found from Maine to North Carolina.  Today, the eastern population has spread across almost all of the Eastern and Central U.S. (South Florida excluded) and have crossed the Great Plains along riparian corridors; in effect, the native Western and transplanted Eastern populations have merged and house finches have become one of the most abundant and widespread birds in the U.S.

Indeed, these medium-sized songbirds are among the most common birds observed at feeders in most regions of the country. Consuming a wide variety of seed, buds and berries, house finches shun insects in their diet and feed plant material to their nestlings.  Permanent residents where they do reside, house finches may be confused with purple finches during the winter months, when the latter migrate south from northern climes; however, the head and chest coloration of male house finches tends to be reddish-orange while the larger male purple finch sports a red-wine wash.  In addition, purple finches have a notched tail and heavier bill and females have a broad white stripe above their eyes.

The melodious song of the house finch, often delivered from the top of trees, makes them welcome in residential areas across America.  Having first encountered these songbirds in Metro Denver, when we moved there in 1982, I can now enjoy their presence in towns, cities and nature preserves throughout the country, including our property in Columbia, Missouri.