House finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) are small, beautiful birds native to the United States and now stretching as far as Hawaii. These fantastic small creatures have markings that make them easily distinguishable from other small birds. Male house finches have red markings on their belly and face, while females are light brown with dark streaks across their feathers.
House finches have a fascinating history, having been illegally sold on the East coast in the mid 20th century only to be released into the wild later on. These birds can be found across North America alongside humans, rarely if ever venturing into dense forests. So, what do house finches eat?
House finches have a diet that consists of primarily vegetables, fruit, seeds, buds, berries, and small flowers. They are also known to eat other smaller insects. Their preferred environment of chaparrals, cities, suburbs and semi-open areas has led them to have diverse diets. Like flamingos, house finches also have coloring that is affected by their diets!
House Finch feeding on sumac
Not only do house finches look in their natural habitats for natural food sources, like seeds, fruits, and berries, but they also get extra help from their human counterparts! Whether house finches are lurking for food in farmlands, shrubs, urban or suburban areas, they tend to also visit local food supplies offered by humans. This can include seed feeders and sugar water!
If you want to know how to attract house finches to your home, and want to know what to feed them to keep them healthy and happy, read on below! You can feed them during all seasons, however, their feeding behavior might be a bit different depending on the time of year.
Studies have shown that house finches do not change their diets during the winter. Unlike other smaller birds that have to take in more significant amounts of food to put on weight for the winter, house finches can stay warm by simply changing their metabolic rate and increasing their temperature when it is needed.
During the winter, house finches will continue to eat their regular diet of seeds, wheat seeds, fruits, and insects. Seeds with a higher oil content are always preferred by house finches, with or without the winter. When the weather warms up and spring comes around, they will start ingesting flower buds and flower parts.
House Finch perched on a branch in winter
Like other wild birds, House finches tend to eat all day long from first morning light until dusk. Because house finches in the wild never know where their next meal will come from, they consume any food source as soon as they see it available. House finches tend to flock to feeders and stay nearby, feeding several times a day from them.
House finches, like other wild birds, can eat half of their body weight in food every day. House finches weigh between 0.67 to .078 ounces, meaning they can eat between 0.34 to 0.39 ounces of seeds and other food every day.
Female House Finch perched on the top of a spruce tree in Colorado
Baby finches do not have beaks strong enough to break open seeds and be able to eat them properly. Thus, house finches only give their young mashed seeds that are easy for them to digest. Mashed vegetable matter can consist of weed seeds, sunflower seeds, dandelion seeds, and thistle.
If you're caring for a baby house finch on your own, you can make your own mix of small seeds smashed up with water or even an electrolyte solution. As the finch grows older, you can begin to feed them smashed up insects, much like their mothers also do in the wild.
Male and female house finches feeding their chicks in the nest
House finches are not birds that enjoy cuddling, and they will more than likely not eat out of your hand. As such, it's best to simply leave food out for them to enjoy rather than try to hand feed adult house finches. You can feed house finches a variety of foods, including seeds from a birdfeeder, or leave out their favorite fruits such as sweet berries. Cotoneaster plants are also a favorite of house finches, as are various flower buds. Apple flower buds are a particular favorite of the house finch.
As we mentioned earlier, it's best to leave house finches food in your backyard rather than attempting to feed them by hand. You can attract house finches by leaving out large birdfeeders, such as a hanging tube or platform bird feeder, to give them an easy place to perch.
House finches can also be attracted by leaving out sugar-water, such as through a hummingbird feeder. You can plant shrubs that they enjoy, such as American elderberry, crabapple, and red mulberry shrubs. House finches can also be attracted to thistle shrubs, a favorite snack of theirs. For a more straightforward method of attracting finches besides planting new shrubs, install a birdbath that can allow them to have somewhere to cool off and drink water.
A pair of house finches at a feeder in the backyard
House finches love to take baths and are attracted to birdbaths and shallow streams. However, if you're caring for a house finch due to it being sick or finding a younger bird, you can mix electrolyte solution, such as Pedialyte, with their bird feed. You can also feed them 100% fruit juices or place sugar water in a hummingbird feeder, which they will gladly enjoy.
House finches, unfortunately, have many natural predators. Large birds of prey such as hawks hunt and kill house finches. Nestlings and eggs can also fall prey to other wildlife. Even smaller birds such as blue jays, common grackles, and crows feast on eggs and young birds. Mammals such as squirrels, foxes, cats, chipmunks, snakes, and raccoons are all predators who eat house finches.
House Finch feeding on some red berries from a branch
House finches, like flamingos, can range in color depending on their diet! Carotenoids, which are found in carrots, can give house finches anywhere from a subtle orange color to a deep, red color throughout their body. Carotenoids are also found in berries, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and squash.
Two male house finches with different colorings
House finches love sunflower seeds, especially black-oil sunflower seeds. Not only are black-oil sunflower seeds a favorite of house finches, but also of other wild birds. House finches also eat other smaller sunflower seeds, and feed mashed seeds to their young in the springtime.
House finches are also known to eat suet when provided in suet cakes. Suet is the fat around the loins or kidneys in mutton and beef. Suet, when rendered down, can provide a valuable source of nutrition for house finches during the winter time.
You can safely feed house finches grape jelly so long as it is done during the morning hours. Grape jelly can replace sugar water, and low-sugar options can also be made available for your birds.
A group of house finches perched in a tree, during winter
Mealworms don't make up a large portion of a house finches diet. However, they can still eat mealworms, especially dried mealworms that can be mixed in with their regular bird feed.
House finches have a diet that consists of mainly bird seeds. House finches can eat seeds, including sunflower seeds, wild seeds from fruit, weed seeds, and grass seeds.
There are many fruits that house finches prefer, which are small and easily digestible. These include wild sweet berries, mulberry, cranberries, and wild cherries. They also enjoy crabapple fruit and elderberry fruit.
House finch feeding a juvenile
House finches tend to forage on the ground from grass fields. They forage grass seeds, in addition to weed seeds too.
Worms are easy prey for house finches, and they tend to eat worms during the spring months when they are abundant. They can also mash up small worms and feed them to their young.
House finches have been known to eat ants. However, if given the opportunity, house finches prefer to munch on termites, beetles, and crickets.
Caterpillars and aphids are natural prey of house finches, who tend to eat them off of shrubs, plants, and even on trees. House finches, like other birds, can also eat earlier stages of a butterfly's life cycle. This includes eating butterfly eggs and larva.
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