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Birding Focus: Interesting stories of our feathered friends.

House Finch, male
© George H. Harrison

House Finch, female (left) and male
© George H. Harrison

House Finches At The Doorstep

If you have birds nesting in a hanging flower pot or around your doorstep, the chances are high that it is a pair of House Finches. They seem to prefer flower pots or wreaths hanging on porches.

The House Finch has been in the news lately for several reasons. First, because itís population has spread throughout North America, after this southwestern species was released from a Long Island pet shop in 1940. From that time on, House Finches spread from New York throughout the East and into the Midwest. In the spring of 1988, after 48 years of separation, the eastern and western populations of House Finches met at the Missouri River in Nebraska.

The other reason House Finches are in the news is that they are the primary victim of an eye disease called mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, which has spread throughout most of the House Finchís range. Despite the mortality caused by the disease, House Finch populations have not decreased.

Today, House Finches are among the most common of backyard birds, and are found at bird feeders in every state in the lower continental U.S. The maleís strawberry-colored head, breast and back cause some confusion with the less common and more northern male Purple Finch. Purple Finches are bulkier, thicker striped, and the males are darker raspberry in color. The bills are also slightly different, with the Purple Finchís being thicker. The females and juveniles of both species are plain, brown, striped sparrowlike birds.

George H. Harrison