I almost hate to admit it on this site, but I’ve never been a big fan of House Finches. Sure they are wild birds and look pretty with their reddish-pink feathers. But their eating habits at bird-feeding stations have long been a bone of contention with me. They perch on the feeder and gorge themselves for minutes on end. I prefer the grab-a-seed-and-go method employed by backyard favorites such as chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches. Come back as often as you need, as far as I’m concerned, but grab and go. Leave space and time for others.
But not House Finches.They fly in, perch, and sit there. Seed after seed goes into their belly and there they sit. Meanwhile, the chickadees and nuthatches sit on nearby branches waiting for a spot to open. House Finches aren’t even supposed to be in New England. They were introduced from California as a pet and established a wild population.
House Finches are not alone in this feeding behavior, of course. Some “good birds” (like cardinals) do it and some birds that many people considering “not so good” (like House Sparrows) do it, too. And the bane of all those who feed birds in the backyard, squirrels, feed like that.
Imagine someone at a buffet restaurant just standing there by the food gorging himself without filling a plate and sitting down.
“Excuse me, sir, can I get a little mashed potatoes, please?”
“Get outta here, I’m eating them now! You can get some when I’m damn good and ready. If there’s any left, that is!”
That was my impression of House Finches.
But the other day I had a little change of heart regarding House Finches. I sat in the lot at work eating my lunch strategically parked in front of a long row of bushes — forsythia I think, it’s hard to tell in the winter. Sure enough, a House Finch perched on a branch just off to the left side of my car. At first I kept on eating my lunch, uninterested in the finch. Then it started to eat the little buds, or whatever they were, off the bushes. I instantly started to like House Finches a little more. Sure they hog space at the feeder, but they also fend for themselves when it comes to food. It’s known that only a small percentage of a bird’s diet comes from backyard feeders, but that’s hard to believe when you watch a House Finch perched on a feeder gorging itself.
So it’s true that House Finches find food in the natural world, too. I saw proof of it the other day. Maybe they aren’t so bad after all.