HOUSE FINCHES (LINNETS)

Jerry P. Clark Figure 1. House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus)

Primary State Biologist
California Department of Food and Agriculture
Sacramento, California 95814

Scott E. Hygnstrom

Extension Wildlife Damage Specialist
Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0974

Fig. 1. House finches (left to right, female and male), Carpodacus mexicanus

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

To be added

Identification

House finches (Carpodacus mexicanus, Fig. 1), also known as linnets, are about the same size as house sparrows. Males are brownish with a bright red breast, forehead, rump, and stripe over the eye. They also have narrow dark stripes on the flanks and belly. Females are sparrowlike, with a plain head, streaked underparts, and no eye stripe. House finches have a warbling song, frequently ending in harsh, nasal notes. Their chirp is similar to that of a house sparrow.

Range

House finches are abundant residents throughout the western United States and Mexico. They are becoming common in the East and are spreading into the central United States. They are most numerous on the valley floors and in the foothills of California, wherever food and water are available. Though house finches are classified along with other finches as migratory nongame birds under federal law, authorities agree that they are relatively nonmigratory. In late summer they move into the higher mountains and have been observed at elevations as high as 9,800 feet (3,000 m). They are generally resident birds and most of those in valley districts spend their lives within a few miles of the place where they were hatched.

Habitat

The house finch is most abundant in the warm valleys of California near cultivated lands. Human development has created extensive favorable habitat including hedgerows, field edges, and crop fields.

Food Habits

House finches are primarily seed eaters, and before the introduction of cultivated fruits, they probably lived largely on weed seeds. Stomach analyses by Beal in 1910 indicated that weed seeds totaled 86.2% of the diet, fruit 10.5%, animal matter 2.4%, and miscellaneous 0.8%.

General Biology, Reproduction, and Behavior

House finches nest in a great variety of places. There are few areas in which they cannot find suitable nesting sites. In the southern portion of California, nesting begins in March. It extends to July in colder areas. House finches have adapted well to the presence of humans. Females will build nests in almost any sheltered spot, including eaves and building ledges. Any soft material is used, including fine twigs and grasses. Four to 5 eggs are laid and they hatch in 12 to 16 days. Age at first flight is 11 to 19 days. Two broods are commonly raised, often in the same nest.

During the nesting period, adults are widely scattered. As summer progresses, groups of young birds and a few adults band together to feed in the general area in which they were reared. These bands grow larger as additional broods of young and their parents join them. By mid-August most of the young are out of the nest and have joined neighborhood bands. These flocks move about local areas, following the developmental succession and ripening of fruits and seeds.

During late August and well into late autumn, the range of flock movement increases. By December the birds are generally settled in areas that offer favorable food and roosting shelter. They remain in their winter habitat from December until late February or early March.

 

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage Logo 1994

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

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