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An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the House Finch

Aug 03, 2018 11:59AM ● By Paul Spear

An Imperial Beach Hidden Gem and Bird of the Week, Bryan Brillhart Photography present the “Dig IB” Bird of the Week, the House Finch

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), a bird in the finch

  family Fringillidae. This is a moderately-sized finch. Adult birds are 12.5 to 15 cm (4.9 to 5.9 in) and span 20 to 25 cm (7.9 to 9.8 in). Body mass can vary from 16 to 27 g (0.56 to 0.95 oz), with an average weight of 21 g (0.74 oz). Adults have a long, square-tipped brown tail and are a brown or dull-brown color across the back with some shading into deep gray on the wing feathers. Breast and belly feathers may be streaked; the flanks usually are. In most cases, adult males' heads, necks and shoulders are reddish. This color sometimes extends to the belly and down the back, between the wings. Male coloration varies in intensity with the seasons, and is derived from the berries and fruits in its diet. As a result, the colors range from pale straw-yellow through bright orange (both rare) to deep, intense red. Adult females have brown upperparts and streaked underparts.

They are now abundant over much of North America, but in some parts of East, they may be competing with Purple Finches to the detriment of the latter. Local populations in some areas have been hard hit by a bacterial infection called conjunctivitis, which swells their eyes shut and makes it difficult for them to feed themselves.

 Adaptable, colorful, and cheery-voiced, house finches are common from coast to coast today, and are familiar visitors to backyard feeders. Native to the Southwest, they are recent arrivals in the East. New York pet shop owners, who had been selling the finches illegally, released their birds in 1940 to escape prosecution; the finches survived, and began to colonize the New York suburbs. By 50 years later they had advanced halfway across the continent, meeting their western kin on the Great Plains.

House finches inhabit cities, suburbs, farms, and canyons. Their original habitat was probably streamside trees and brush in dry country, woodland edges, chaparral, and other semi-open areas. Now, they are most commonly associated with humans in cities, towns, and farmland, especially in areas with lawns, weedy areas, trees, and buildings. They avoid unbroken forest or grassland.

House finches forage on ground, while perching in weeds, or up in trees and shrubs. Except when nesting, they usually forage in flocks. They will come to feeders for seeds, especially sunflower seeds, and to hummingbird feeders for sugar-water. Diet is mostly seeds, buds, and berries. Almost all of their diet is vegetable matter. House finches feed mainly on weed seeds. Other important items include buds and flower parts in spring, and berries and small fruits in late summer and fall. They also eat a few insects, mostly small ones such as aphids. Young are fed on regurgitated seeds.

After mating, females lay 4-5, sometimes 2-6 pale blue, with black and lavender dots mostly a

 t the larger end, eggs. Incubation is by females in about 13-14 days. Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave the nest in about 12-15 days after hatching. They may produce up to 3 broods per year, perhaps sometimes more.

Pairs may begin to form within flocks in winter, and some paired birds may remain together all year. In breeding season, the male performs a flight-song display, singing while fluttering up with slow wingbeats and then gliding down. The male feeds the female during courtship and incubation. Males may sing at any time of year, and females also sing during spring. Nests are built on a wide variety of sites, especially in conifers, palms, ivy on buildings, cactus, and holes in manmade structures, averaging about 12-15' above the ground. Sometimes they use sites such as cavities, hanging planters, old nests of other birds. Their nest (built mostly by female) is open an cup of grass, weeds, fine twigs, leaves, rootlets, sometimes with feathers, string, or other debris added.

Look for this common and colorful bird singing it’s little heart out while perched on electric wires, fences, and tree limbs throughout Imperial Beach. The male’s song is delightful! Until next week, good birding!

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Bryan Brillhart Photography

Bryan Brillhart

 

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