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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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House Finch
Haemorhous mexicanus
by Cornell Lab of Ornithology

The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across.

At a Glance


Ground Forager
Least Concern


Both Sexes
        5.1–5.5 in
        13–14 cm
        7.9–9.8 in
        20–25 cm
        0.6–1 oz
        16–27 g
    Relative Size
        Same size as a House Sparrow,         but more slender overall.

Other Names
Roselin familiar (French)
Gorrión doméstico, Gorrión común, Gorrión mexicano (Spanish)

Cool Facts
The House Finch was originally a bird of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940 a small number of finches were turned loose on Long Island, New York, after failed attempts to sell them as cage birds (“Hollywood finches”). They quickly started breeding and spread across almost all of the eastern United States and southern Canada within the next 50 years.

The total House Finch population across North America is staggering. Scientists estimate between 267 million and 1.4 billion individuals.

House Finches were introduced to Oahu from San Francisco sometime before 1870. They had become abundant on all the major Hawaiian Islands by 1901.

The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. This is why people sometimes see orange or yellowish male House Finches. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps raising the chances they get a capable mate who can do his part in feeding the nestlings.

House Finches feed their nestlings exclusively plant foods, a fairly rare occurrence in the bird world. Many birds that are vegetarians as adults still find animal foods to keep their fast-growing young supplied with protein.

The oldest known House Finch was 11 years, 7 months old.

House Finches are familiar birds of human-created habitats including buildings, lawns, small conifers, and urban centers. In rurual areas, you can also find House Finches around barns and stables. In their native range in the West, House Finches live in natural habitats including dry desert, desert grassland, chaparral, oak savannah, streamsides, and open coniferous forests at elevations below 6,000 feet.

House Finches eat almost exclusively plant materials, including seeds, buds and fruits. Wild foods include wild mustard seeds, knotweed, thistle, mulberry, poison oak, cactus, and many other species. In orchards, House Finches eat cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and figs. At feeders they eat black oil sunflower over the larger, striped sunflower seeds, millet, and milo.

Nesting Facts

    Clutch Size:
        2–6 eggs
    Number of Broods
        1-6 broods
    Egg Length
        0.6–0.8 in
        1.6–2.1 cm
    Egg Width
        0.5–0.6 in
        1.3–1.5 cm
    Incubation Period
        13–14 days
    Nestling Period
        12–19 days

    Egg Description
        Pale blue to white, speckled         with fine black and pale purple.

    Condition at Hatching
        Naked except for sparse white         down along feather tracts, eyes         closed, clumsy.

Nest Description
A House Finch’s nest is a cup made of fine stems, leaves, rootlets, thin twigs, string, wool, and feathers, with similar, but finer materials for the lining. Overall width of the nest is 3-7 inches, with the inside cup 1-3 inches across and up to 2 inches deep.

Nest Placement
House Finches nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy, and hanging planters. Occasionally House Finches use the abandoned nests of other birds.

A highly social bird, the House Finch is rarely seen alone outside of the breeding season, and may form flocks as large as several hundred birds. House Finches feed mainly on the ground or at feeders or fruiting trees. At rest, they commonly perch on the highest point available in a tree, and flocks often perch on power lines. During courtship, males sometimes feed females in a display that begins with the female gently pecking at his bill and fluttering her wings. The male simulates regurgitating food to the female several times before actually feeding her.
Ground Forager

House Finches are common and with the exception of some areas in western North America, their populaitons increased between 1966 and 2010, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 45 million with 76 percent in the U.S., 21 percent in Mexico and 3 percent in Canada. They rate a 6 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Scale and are not on the 2012 Watch List. House Finches generally benefit from human development. However, populations underwent a steep decline beginning in January 1994 owing to a disease called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis. The disease causes respiratory problems and red, swollen eyes, making them susceptible to predators and adverse weather. House Finch conjunctivitis was first observed at feeders in the Washington, D.C., area. It’s not harmful to humans, but it has spread rapidly through the eastern House Finch population and into the West. Learn more here.
Least Concern


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