Kestrel's Musings

Rambles and explorations from this perspective.

A Rapid, Joyous Succession of Notes

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)

(CC BY-NC 2.0)

They have me surrounded. They roost in the most welcome spots around my house: the eves, the vine engulfing the porch post, the conifer thick and shrubby. They complain loudly when I walk outside at the wrong time. They attend all my seed feeders throughout the day. They have taken to singing proudly from the oaks as all the birds in my yard have begun to do this second week of March.

In this second Ode to Ralph Hoffmann post, I bring attention to this ubiquitous bird, Carpodacus mexicanus, House Finch.

A pair of birds burst from the vines on the porch as the front door is opened, and with harsh protests fly to the nearest tree. The female is grayish brown, heavily streaked on the under parts, the male is bright crimson on head and breast. As you watch them, he bursts into a rapid, joyous succession of notes ending generally in the syllables chwee, whurr. If you find the same pair and their brood later taking toll of your apricots, figs and strawberries, you will feel perhaps that though the presence of so much color and song throughout the year is a delight, you are paying handsomely for it. Be thankful, however, that there is ample compensation for the damage in color and melody; in the East you would have instead the plain appearance and monotonous calls of the English Sparrow. After breeding season House Finches assemble in large flocks and feed on the seeds of weeds in fields and along highways. Single birds or small groups are always on the telephone wires, and often all the lines between several posts are occupied by solid rows. The ordinary call notes range from a rather coarse wheat to high-pitched calls which vary in pitch. The bird is talkative, calling as it flies. At the height of the breeding season the male hops about the indifferent female with tail up, wings drooping, head up and crest feathers raised, singing and making a sound like a sharp intake of breath. The female in the height of the mating period utters a few notes that suggest the male’s song. The plumage of the male varies in the extent and shade of the red, and in many individuals the red is replaced by orange yellow.

The House Finch is the common red bird seen about farms, along highways, and generally near civilization. The California Purple Finch, from which it is difficult to distinguish it, is a bird of cool canyons or coniferous forests, but the two are in certain regions found together. East of the Sierras and Cascades, House Finch and Cassin Finches often occupy the same adjoining territory.

Hoffmann, Ralph. (1927). Birds of the Pacific States. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press Cambridge.


Author: Kestrel

Kestrel identifies as a naturalist, Yosemite Interpreter, guide, outdoor educator, science teacher, friend, music lover, auntie extraordinaire, adventurer for birds, and fellow sojourner on this big blue marble. Out there she strives to live life most generously and satisfyingly. Here she endeavors to share what rolls around the heart and grey matter...

Comments are closed.