This is a series of articles about the birds that visit my backyard feeders and that are seen around my yard this winter. Please share any photographs or observations from your feeders with us on the Friends website (www.friendsebec.com) by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The House finch is the "other" red bird that is common at my feeders. Unlike the male cardinal that is red all over, the House finch is only red on the head and breast (and only the males are red). Male House finches look like they were dipped in raspberry juice or red wine. The females look similar but are a drab brownish color. Both sexes are pretty stocky and have a heavy bill that is used for crushing seeds and other plants. It is often common to have more than one House finch at the feeder as they are quite gregarious.
The House finches we have in New Jersey are apparently the descendants of birds that were released in the 1940's on Long Island after unsuccessful attempts to market them as cage pets. They were originally a western bird, but the birds released in the east found the habitat very suitable and since that time, have spread across most of the eastern United States and southern Canada. They are now firmly ensconced as part of our avifauna.
According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the number of House finches estimated to occur in North America is amazing, somewhere between 274 million and 1.4 billion! Hopefully, some of them will make a showing at your feeder.
For more information about the House Finch, check out the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology page at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/House_finch/id/ac