Sunday, June 14, 2015

House Finch Nest In Our Front Doorway Wreath

One day we noticed extra grass and pine needles on our front porch, at home, in Ballwin, Missouri.  I looked up to notice the beginnings of a nest inside the wreath that is mounted on the sidewall, just outside our front door.
 A House Finch had built a nest in our front porch wreath (photo: Mike Zieloski)

The next day there were more bits of grasses on the front porch concrete and the nest had gotten larger. The nest had a nice deep cup…not muddy enough to be a Robin…not disheveled enough to be a Carolina Wren or a House Sparrow…so I figured that it was probably a House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus). House Finches do like to nest close to human structures and our porch is covered by a nice roof extension. The nest building took place March 20, and 21, 2015.

Four eggs were laid over a four day period (photo: Mike Zieloski)

Daily I would peer into the cup nest to check for eggs. The first egg was laid March 23, 2015, and then one egg was laid per day on the 24th, 25th and 26th of March.  The chicks hatched, but I wasn’t sure exactly which day or days.  By April 17th there were 4 tiny chicks in the nest when I checked.

An interesting behavior took place for 3 days…a Robin began to build a nest on top of the wreath. We observed the Robin fly out from under the eaves 5 times, but the nest was well on its way, so we did not see all the trips. The Robin never finished the nest. Did the hatching House Finches stimulate the Robin to build there?  That is my best guess.
Just thirty-six days after the first egg was laid the babies had fledged (photo: Mike Zieloski)

The House Finches Fledged April 28, 2015 sometime between 6:20 am when I retrieved the newspaper and 7:34 am when I left for work. The nest was empty. Only baby poop remains in the nest.

House Finches are small 5-inch birds and have a fairly nice song--a fast cheery warbling. The males have a red eyebrow and red breast and belly. Females and young have blurry brown lines all over.

House Finches have an interesting American History in that they were accidentally released in New York in 1940 and spread west. Originally only a resident of Mexico and the southwestern United States, the birds were sold illegally in New York City as "Hollywood Finches," a marketing ploy.  To avoid prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, vendors and owners released the birds.  They have become naturalized in largely unforested land across the Eastern U.S.  They have displaced the native Purple Finch and even the non-native House Sparrow.  In 1870 or before, they were introduced into Hawaii and are known to be abundant on all its islands.

Story and photos by Michael Zeloski, World Bird Sanctuary Director of Education.

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