Feathered Friends

By John Keeling

The House Finch


house-finchThe house finch is a sparrow-sized bird which is a very common year-round resident at lakeside. The male has a red breast and cap, though is not as strikingly red as the vermilion flycatcher, which is the other small red-breasted bird commonly seen here. In fact the intensity of the color varies with the season, being brighter in mating season, when females tend to pick males with the brightest red color. These birds are typically heard singing a complicated twittering trill from the tops of bushes and trees.

The female of the species is easily confused with a sparrow, because it is brown all over, and has highly streaked under-parts. You will often find the males and females foraging together in small groups, as they are very social birds. This knowledge will assist you in identifying the females.

Notice the heavy beak which is required to crush seeds, which are the principal food source. In season they will also eat berries and attack fruit, a practice which does not endear them to commercial fruit growers.

House finches are highly adaptable being found in backyards, town centers, farmlands and desert. Their adaptability to human environments has allowed them to aggressively expand their range from northern Mexico, up the Pacific side of the Rockies to Washington state and British Columbia. Most interesting is that in the 1940s these birds were sold in cages in New York under the name of ‘Hollywood finches’. Escapees soon became naturalized, and within 50 years the progeny of those birds spread south to Florida, north to eastern Canada, and also to the mid-west. They are now one of the most common birds in both Mexico and the U.S.

They are monogamous and mate three or more times in the period March to July. The female constructs a cup-shaped nest of twigs and leaves, lined with feathers, in a tree or creeper or on a ledge. She lays about 4 eggs, (one a day), and incubates them for 14 days, and sits the babies for a few more days while they are still tiny. Throughout this time the female is fed by the male. For a brief period both parents feed the chicks. The young leave the nest within two and half weeks, after which they are fed by the male, allowing the female to start building a new nest right away.

Naturally, there are predators. At this time of the year I see ravens occasionally checking out the house finch nesting colonies in the tall, thin cedars near my house in Ajijic, and casually lifting a chick or two for lunch, while the parents helplessly send out loud alarm calls.

(John Keeling and his wife lead the ‘Lake Chapala Birding Club’ which is a group of people interested in birds. To receive notices of bird walks etc., leave your e-mail address at avesajijic.com. )

Pin It
The Resilience of Our Mexican Friends By Leah Jewall   Friends from San Ignacio had stopped by for tea. Fifteen minutes later the torrential downpour
Wondrous Wildlife By Vern and Lori Gieger Mickey, Minnie and Friends   Mice, there are approximately 1,100 species in this enormous group and
Feathered Friends By John Keeling   The cattle egret is a medium-small white heron, eighteen inches long, having a wingspan of 36 inches. It can
Editor’s PageBy Alejandro Grattan-DominguezGod Bless Our Four-legged Friends The two most often heard complaints by foreigners living here at Lakeside
LAKESIDE FRIENDS OF THE ANIMALS—Speaking for Those Who Can’t Speak for Themselves By Elyn McEvoy   A popular statue found in many area gardens
Wordwise With Pithy Wit By Tom Clarkson   This morning, my pal F.T. – who shared the Iraq experience with me during my third trek there – forwarded
  VICTORIA SCHMIDT   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Victoria Schmidt came to Mexico with her husband, in 2007. 
    MOONYEEN PATRICIA KING   Column: Profiling Tepehua   Website:   Settled in Mexico 13 years ago.  The
  KEN MASSON   Column: Bridge by the Lake   Website:   Ken Masson has been playing, teaching and writing about bridge
  ALEJANDRO GRATTAN-DOMINGUEZ   Column: Editor’s Page   Website:   Wrote/directed first movie about Mexican-Americans, Only
 Find us on Facebook