House Finch

Carpodacus mexicanus

A bright red and brown-striped bird of the cities and suburbs, the House Finch comes readily to feeders. It also breeds in close association with people, and often chooses a hanging plant in which to put its nest.

Cool Facts

Photo taken from:
The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America by David Allen Sibley
  • The House Finch was originally a bird of the southwestern United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, and they quickly started breeding. They spread across the entire eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years.
  • The red or yellow color of a male House Finch comes from pigments that it gets in its food during molt. The more pigment in the food, the redder the male. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps assuring that they get a capable male who can find enough food to feed the nestlings.
  • When nestling House Finches defecate, the feces are contained in a membranous sac, as in most birds. The parents eat the fecal sacs of the nestlings for about the first five days. In most songbird species, when the parents stop eating the sacs, they carry the sacs away and dispose of them. But House Finch parents do not remove them, and the sacs accumulate around the rim of the nest.

Description

  • Size: 13-14 cm (5-6 in)
  • Wingspan: 20-25 cm (8-10 in)
  • Weight: 16-27 g (0.56-0.95 ounces)
  • Medium-sized finch.
  • Male bright red on head, chest, and rump; female brown and striped.
  • Bill short and thick, with rounded top edge.
  • Two thin white wingbars.
  • Tail with square tip.
  • Underparts streaked brown and white.
  • Eyes black.
  • Legs dark brown.
Sex Differences
Male red, female grayish brown with stripes.
 
Male
Crown, eyebrow stripe, throat, chest, and rump bright red to pale yellow. Flanks whitish with heavy brown stripes. Back, wings, and tail brown
 
Female
Grayish brown overall, with blurry streaks on chest and sides. Face all brown, with no eyestripe.
 
Immature
Juvenile similar to female, but with more fluffy feathers and more distinct wingbars.
Range Map
 
Taxonomic Hierarchy

Spotted_Sandpiper_AllAm

© 2003 Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
     Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
     Subfamily: Carduelinae
Genus: Carpodacus
Species: Carpodacus mexicanus
     Subspecies:
  • Carpodacus mexicanus amplus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus centralis
  • Carpodacus mexicanus clementis
  • Carpodacus mexicanus coccineus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus frontalis
  • Carpodacus mexicanus griscomi
  • Carpodacus mexicanus mcgregori
  • Carpodacus mexicanus mexicanus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus potosinus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus rhodopnus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus roseipectus
  • Carpodacus mexicanus ruberrimus
Sound
Song a hoarse warble that goes up and down rapidly. Call note a sharp "cheep."

Identification and Information
See Anatomy of a Bird
Body
  • Length Range: 15 cm (6 in)
  • Weight: 20 g (0.7 oz)
  • Size: 2. Small (5 - 9 in)
  • Color Primary: Brown
  • Underparts: Buff with brown streaks and red breast.
  • Upperparts: Brown with pale brown streaking.
  • Back Pattern: Striped or streaked
  • Belly Pattern: Striped or streaked
  • Breast Pattern: Solid
 
Head
  • Bill Shape: Cone
  • Eye Color: Deep brown, appearing black except when close, in good light.
  • Head Pattern: Plain, Streaked
  • Crown Color: Red
  • Forehead Color: Red
  • Nape Color: Brown with pale brown streaking.
  • Throat Color: Red with brown streaking.
  • Cere color: No Data
Flight
  • Flight Pattern: Swift bounding flight., Alternates several rapid wing beats with brief periods of wings pulled to sides.
  • Wingspan Range: 25 cm (9.75 in)
  • Wing Shape: Rounded-Wings
  • Tail Shape: Squared Tail
  • Tail Pattern: Solid
  • Upper Tail: Dark Brown
  • Under Tail: Dark Brown
  • Leg Color: Gray-brown
Breeding
  • Breeding Location: Grassland with scattered trees, Mountains, Scrub vegetation areas
  • Breeding Type: Monogamous, Solitary nester
  • Breeding Population: Abundant
  • Egg Color: Blue with lavender and black spots at large end
  • Number of Eggs: 2 - 3
  • Incubation Days: 12 - 14
  • Egg Incubator: Female
  • Nest Material: Twigs, grass, leaves, rootlets, bits of debris, and feathers.
  • Migration: Some migrate
  • Condition at Hatching: Helpless with sparse white down. Chicks fledge in 16 days.

Other Names

Similar Species

  • Roselin familiar (French)
  • Gorrión doméstico, Gorrión común, Gorrión mexicano (Spanish)
  • Purple Finch has bill more pointed, tail shorter and notched. Male Purple Finch darker red, with red on nape, back and flanks. Undertail coverts unstreaked. Female Purple Finch with obvious white eyestripe and malar stripe, broader streaks on white breast and flanks, and unstreaked undertail coverts.
  • Cassin's Finch has more pointed bill, and tail is shorter and slightly notched. Male's flanks are reddish and lack brown streaking. Female Cassin's Finch with more pronounced facial pattern, distinct blackish streaks on chest and back, and streaked undertail coverts. For more discussion on distinguishing these three species, developed by Project FeederWatch, go here.
  • Female House Sparrow has a streaked back, a bold eyestripe, and an unstreaked breast.
  • Pine Siskin has a more pointed bill, heavily streaked upperparts, a deeply notched tail, and has yellow edging on the wings and tail.

Conservation Status

Common and benefiting from human development. Eastern populations cut in half by eye disease in the last decade. To find out more about this disease and learn how you can help track it and its effects, go to the House Finch Disease Survey home page, or here for an article on the topic from Birdscope. You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds! project.

Habitat

Sources used to Construct this Page:

In the East, found almost exclusively in urban and suburban habitats, especially in areas with buildings, lawn, and small conifers. In West, found around people, but also in desert, chaparral, oak savanna, riparian areas, and open coniferous forests.
  • Hill, G. E. 1993. House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus). In The Birds of North America, No. 46 (A. Poole, and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
Food
Buds, seeds, and fruits.
Behavior
Forages in small flocks, usually in trees, but often on ground. Uses feeders extensively.

Adult Female

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Orange Variant
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Red Variant
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Additional Photos & Video

Yellow Variant
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Videos
   
 
 

All photos © 2008 Rick Swartzentrover - Free for non-profit use.

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