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House Finch - Male

House Finch - Male

Don DeBold

The most widely distributed songbird in North America, the house finch is one of the most common backyard birds, though it was once found only in the western United States. After being introduced to Long Island, New York, in the 1940s, the house finch population quickly became established in the east and today the total North American population is estimated to be as high as one billion birds.

Common Name:

House Finch, Linnet (not to be confused with the Common Linnet in Europe)

Scientific Name:

Carpodacus mexicanus

Appearance:

  • Bill: Conical, gray
  • Size: 6 inches long with 10-inch wingspan, long tail
  • Colors: Red, brown, buff, white, gray
  • Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a brown cap that contrasts with the red forehead and thick, blurry eyebrow. Throat, upper chest and rump are strongly red, while the back is gray brown with darker streaks. Brown wings show two narrow white or buff wing bars, and flanks, abdomen and undertail coverts are buff or white with heavy brown streaks. Variant males show the same markings but in yellow or orange instead of red. Females have the same markings but lack any red and have a plain, unmarked face.

Foods:

Seeds, fruit, sap, insects

Habitat and Migration:

House finches are very adaptable and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from arid deserts to open woodlands and shrubby fields. They are common in both urban and suburban areas as well, extending from the southern edge of Canada through central and southern Mexico. Populations are less dense in the central Great Plains states and the southeastern United States. These birds generally do not migrate, but they can become nomadic in search of food.

Vocalizations:

House finches are gregarious birds that regularly call and sing at any time of year. Their song is a high, throaty warble with a rising buzz at the end, while the most typical call is a sharp, raspy “cheeeep” that can be made while perched or in flight.

Behavior:

During the breeding season house finches are solitary or stay in their mated pairs, but small family groups form as nestlings fledge. During the winter, house finches will form medium to large flocks, often mixing with other small birds including American goldfinches, pine siskins and house sparrows. They forage on the ground and will perch at all heights in available trees and shrubs. In the backyard, they are perky, curious birds but can startle easily, and they may show mild feeder aggression.

Reproduction:

House finches are monogamous. The female will incubate a brood of 3-6 eggs for 12-14 days, and both parents feed the altricial young for 12-19 days. A pair may raise 1-3 broods per year, with multiple broods more common in southern populations.

Attracting House Finches

House finches come easily to backyard feeders for sunflower seeds and Nyjer. They will also visit birdbaths and may nest in birdhouses, garden pots and other convenient locations. Birders can attract house finches by providing tube, hopper and platform feeders and ensuring there are perches available nearby with medium sized trees or a brush pile.

Similar Birds:

  • Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus)
  • Cassin’s Finch (Carpodacus cassinii)

Photo – House Finch – Male © Don DeBold
Photo – House Finch – Female © Michael Woodruff

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