The house finch is a widespread and recognizable songbird. It frequently visits backyards and bird feeders throughout central and southern North America. And, as its name suggests, they commonly build their nests on or near houses and other buildings.
House finches construct their nests out of various plant matter and, not infrequently, human-made materials. Nest sites are generally in trees, cacti, or on the ledge of a home or outbuilding.
If you are interested in attracting the house finch to your backyard or want to know more about the bird's nesting habits and behavior, read on! We will discuss the most commonly asked questions about house finch nesting in this complete guide.
Male and female house finches feeding chicks in the nest
House finches nest in a wide variety of sites, reflective of their diverse range. Common nest locations include cacti, conifer trees, palm trees, rock ledges, roof overhangs, hanging planters, windowsills, and abandoned buildings. On rare occasions, finches will use the abandoned nest of another bird or build in a tree cavity.
As you can see, house finches are not incredibly picky. Many of their nest sites are in human-made structures or near areas with human activity. The most important site characteristics are protection from above and a solid base to build on.
House finch nests are cup-shaped, containing a mix of plant matter and synthetic materials. On average, nests are constructed with grass stems, leaves, rootlets, thin twigs, other fine plant material, feathers, string, and wool. Materials will vary based on the bird's location.
For example, house finches nesting in Arizona always utilizes fresh creosote twigs with the leaves still on. Fresh or green plant materials help prevent mites, which is why finches will add more creosote to their nest when mite season is in full swing.
More dried plant materials are present in the nest during early spring when mites are not active. Nest linings contain softer materials than the exterior, such as grass and rootlets. String, paper, wool, pet hairs, and cigarette filters are also used in nest lining, particularly in urban areas,
Close up of a house finch nest with six pale blue eggs inside
House finches generally nest in spring and summer, between March and August. These birds have long nesting seasons because they often lay more than one clutch. A mated pair may have 2-6 broods per year. Although, all six are not typically successful.
The length of nesting season varies slightly based on what region a house finch is nesting in. However, most finches nest between early March and August. The first clutch typically hatches in March after a fourteen-day incubation period.
In another 12-19 days, the fledglings are ready to leave the nest. At this point, the female has already begun preparing for the next clutch.
Close up of a perched female house finch
Female house finches are the sole nest builders. Males remain nearby, occasionally picking up nest material, but these are never used in the nest. Females collect various plant matter, twine, string, and hair, carry it back to the nest site, and begin building.
The construction process can take up to three weeks, with the female most actively working in the mornings and slowing down in the afternoons. The first nest of the season generally takes the longest to build. Late season nests are more often completed in 2-6 days.
Experience plays a role in how quickly and well nests are built. First-time females tend to struggle with structure and placement, whereas experienced females work much faster and more efficiently.
Baby house finches generally leave the nest 12-15 days after hatching. Both parents participate in feeding the young. However, the male takes over most of this responsibility in the days before the chicks fledge.
Once the brooding period has ended, the female’s role slowly declines. Before the current clutch leaves the nest, she begins preparing for the next brood.
A male house finch, feeding one of his chicks
Most house finches have more than one brood per season. On average, a pair will produce two successful broods in one nesting season. House finches can lay up to six clutches, but usually, no more than three make it to the fledging stage.
Male and female house finches commonly return to the same breeding area each year. If they have previous nest sites, they are likely to reuse one of them.
A female house finch feeding her chicks in the nest
House finch eggs are oval and pale blue, with black and purple speckles typically concentrated on the broader end. They average 0.6-0.8 inches in length and 0.5-0.6 inches in width.
House finches generally lay their first clutch in early March. However, the laying season may continue through August or September. The length depends primarily on the region and experience of the pair.
Female (left) and male (right) house finches eating seeds from a feeder
House finches will use nest boxes. They require a 2-inch diameter entryway and a 6x6 inch floor. Nest boxes should be attached to a pole or the side of a shed - somewhere that offers cover and cannot be easily reached by predators.
House finches generally do not stay in a nest at night, except during the incubation and brooding period. Instead, they find an inconspicuous site in the foliage of a coniferous tree, on a cactus, or under a rock ledge. They may also sleep inside vents, hanging planters, or under roof overhangs.
House finches frequently nest in backyards. They will use ledges or vents on homes, barns, and outbuildings. Hanging planters, dense ivy, and abandoned farm equipment are other popular options. You can also provide nest boxes if you want to attract house finches to your home.
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