Oh, these finches live in Florida too

It was a cheerful whistling with wandering notes and not much of a tune that caused me to look up and see this little bird faced toward the rising sun.

It had some color at the throat, bold stripes, and a blunt, stubby finch-type beak.

I zoomed in.

“Maybe it’s a weird sparrow or some Florida finch I don’t know about yet,” I thought.

The naked eye does not see what my camera sees, at this stage of life. I would review my photos later.

I walked around a couple of blocks, pushing my grandson’s baby stroller on our morning walk. A few minutes later I spotted two of the finch-like birds on wire, just above some seagrapes.

The one on the left had a bit more color. At home I double-checked online and confirmed, “Oh, it’s a House Finch.”

Cornell Lab of Ornithology: House Finch ID

Adult Male: Note very thick bill with curved rather than straight-edged profile. Red on head is largely on the eyebrow and throat, with brownish cheeks. Flanks are boldly streaked.

At first I thought the less-colorful bird on the right must be a female or immature finch, but Cornell says females and not-full-grown House Finches are all brown. So, a less colorful male? Almost looks like he has a little yellow color in addition to red.

The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. This is why people sometimes see orange or yellowish male House Finches. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps raising the chances they get a capable mate who can do his part in feeding the nestlings.

House Finches would sometimes visit our bird feeder in New Hampshire.

I didn’t know they lived in Florida. Cornell’s map does not show their range extending to our area. They just barely edge into our area in winter on the Audubon map. Guess it’s time to update the maps for our little wanderers, who seem to be expanding their range.

One of two House Finches perched over Arch Street in Jensen Beach, Florida.

Well, hey, the map on the Wikipedia entry for House Finches does show them here, as well as everywhere else in the U.S.

Originally only a resident of Mexico and the southwestern United States, they were introduced to eastern North America in the 1940s. The birds were sold illegally in New York City as “Hollywood Finches”, a marketing artifice. To avoid prosecution under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, vendors and owners released the birds. They have since 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.

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