It’s always a thrill to have a new bird species visit the yard, whether it’s to take a sip from one of my two bird baths, splash in the deeper basin, or nibble from one of the several feeders. Some birds even ignore all that and simple forage through the trees, hop along the ground or perch on the fence. This past week, however, I had a visit from a bird I recognize instantly, miss dearly and am thrilled to welcome.
It was on my hanging platform seed feeder, snacking away cautiously. I haven’t seen this bird in two years, not since moving from the west back to Florida, but its gray-brown streaked plumage, thicker bill and sparrow-like size were instantly recognizable, as I’d seen them daily for years while living in Utah. The faint wash of red on the breast and rump also helped me determine this bird’s age and gender, and I was excited to be seeing a young male house finch once again.
House finches were originally western species, but captive importation in New York in 1940 (entrepreneurs had hoped to sell these “Hollywood finches” but were not successful, so released the birds) helped them spread to the east. They’re social and bold, and enjoy various seeds. They stay in the same range year-round, and while their numbers can grow quickly through rapid breeding, they’re highly susceptible to mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, also called house finch eye disease, which can decimate local populations.
While I’ve so far only seen the house finch at my feeders one time, and while the visit was all too brief before the northern cardinal claimed the feeder, the sighting makes me smile (and brings my yard list to an astonishing 42 species in less than two years – see the complete list to the right). Of course, he’s very welcome to return – and to bring his friends!