The House Finch of the Pacific Northwest
The house finch is a common site at feeders all over Vancouver Island, they add such a flash of color amongst the browns and grays. A house finch is a slender, sparrow-sized bird up to 14 cm long with short, thick bill and square tipped tail. The male has red crown, chest and rump. Its back, wings and tail are brown. The female is grayish brown overall with blurry streaks on the breast and sides.
House finches will nest on window ledges, or in holes in buildings, conifer trees and old nests of other birds. The female builds most of the nest, a shallow cup of grasses, twigs, leaves and lined with feathers and other fine fibers. The female lays up to 6 greenish white eggs and incubates them for about 2 weeks. Both parents feed the nestlings. The nestlings leave the nest in about 15 days after hatching. The male continues to feed the young for about two more weeks while the female builds a new nest and lays the next brood of eggs. Pairs may raise three or more clutches each season.
House finches are monogamous. Males engage in courtship display known as the butterfly flight, wherein they ascend 20 to 30 meters high and slowly glide to a perch while singing loudly. Other courtship displays such as courtship feeding and mate guarding occur. Females prefer to mate with the brightest colored males.
The diet of house finches primarily consists of grains, seeds, buds and fruits. Sunflower, thistle and huckleberries are favorites. They also eat flower parts and sometimes insects like beetle larvae and plant lice that may be eaten incidentally with seeds. When feeding in open territories, they prefer to have high perches nearby. They drink by scooping water into their beak and tilting their head back. They need to drink at least once a day. At feeding stations, any type of food such as suet, bird seeds, bread crumbs and nectar will attract these beautiful birds.