Scientific Name: Carpodacus mexicanus
Pictures: (click for larger images)
Male House Finch. April 2005 at the feeder of an apartment near Hilgard & Le Conte. Photo by Jason Finley. Female House Finch, eating a seed at a feeder. Photo by Jason Finley. Juvenile Male House Finch. Photo by Jason Finley. Male & Female House Finch. Photo by Jason Finley. A beautiful picture of a male House Finch taken by Sean Hoppes in May 2005. A male House Finch courting a female with song, dance, and stance. The female is playing hard to get! Photo by Jason Finley. Fat male house finch near Santa Monica Blvd. & Overland. Photo by Jay Fahlen 6/7/05. Male House Finch Illustration
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
Description: Small. 5"-6" in length (beak to tail), same size as a sparrow. The adult males have bright red on their foreheads, throat, and upper chest, and some on their rumps. The rest of their bodies are light brown, with streaks of brown and tan on their belly. Juvenile males start out with yellow plumage, which then turns to orange, then red. Some adults may also have these other colors instead of red, depending on their diet. The females are brown all over, with the same streaks on the breast.
Commonality/Seasonality: Very common year-round.
Location: Found in bushes and trees all over campus! Once you learn what their song sounds like, you'll hear them everywhere. One place in particular where they show up often is the Bombshelter.
Notes: Present in flocks. You can usually get fairly close to them, especially when there's something for them to eat, and it's fun to watch their behavior. In the spring you can see them courting: the male will sing and dance around for the female, and will even regurgitate food into her mouth! Along with the House Sparrow, the House Finches are one of the bird species that are abundant in human-dominated environments.
Historical: In 1947, the House Finch was known as the California Linnet. Here is what Dr. Loye Miller wrote about this bird:
"Everywhere and always" would be the brief characterization. Cheerful, resourceful, and fruitful wold be almost as good. The increased number and variety of berry-bearing plants has been greatly to his advantage (and to ours), for he has steadily increased [since the founding of the Westwood campus].
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.