Happy as a… Finch?

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Oh he is beautiful, donning his gorgeous red cap and bib, and ready to dine at the finest table in our restaurant! And he is such a good sport about sharing his table after the other seats have all been taken. He isn’t deterred when the yellow-bellied woodpecker takes a seat on the opposite side. He doesn’t flinch when the male cardinal swoops in for a quick nibble. He doesn’t even run off when two white-winged doves land just overhead, obviously trying to intimidate the little fellow into leaving his plate for them.

No, not this guy! He holds his own and dines until he’s had enough. And if he IS booted out of his chair, he waits nearby patiently, only to return after the bully has gone.

And since I don’t have larks at my house, happy as a finch is a perfectly appropriate phrase.

The House Finch is known for eating almost exclusively plant materials, including seeds, buds, and fruit. Wild foods on this guy’s menu include mustard seeds, knotweed, mulberry, cactus, poison oak (really?), sunflower seeds, and of course thistle.

But did you know? The red or yellow color of a male House Finch comes from pigments that it gets in its food. The more pigment in the food, the redder the male.

This is important when pairing up with partners because females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find.

That explains why the female I’ve seen with this guy rarely leaves his side.  She’s definitely staying by her man!

The House Finch is also highly social and rarely seen alone outside of the breeding season. I haven’t seen flocks of them in my yard, but I’ve noticed a single pair dining together most of the time. They even brought a friend over for dinner the other day. And, males are known to feed females during courtship in a display that begins with the female gently pecking at his bill and fluttering her wings, a ritual I have not yet observed personally. This activity stimulates the male to regurgitate his food for feeding to her.

Also, the House Finch is a more recent bird species to the US and a focal species for the Celebrate Urban Birds! project. Take time to learn about this project and conduct a 10-minute count and record whether or not you see finches. I added my data just this morning! Look for these finches near your home, on nesting platforms, and at your feeders.

Oh, there he is again! Gotta run! Where’s my camera…


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