At first glance, they look like
sparrows, especially the female. She is basically brown with streaking
on the sides and back. A closer look reveals that some of the birds have
a reddish orange color on their heads, backs, and rumps. These are the
If you live in the eastern U.S.
and have a birdfeeder stocked with sunflower seed you have probably seen
an "alien with a sweet tooth."
Historically, the House Finch was
strictly a western bird. The Rocky Mountains proved to be an effective
barrier to any eastern migration by this species. This is true of many
other western birds. In 1940 House Finches got a free ride across the
New York City bird dealers
imported several dozen of these "Hollywood Finches", as they
advertised them, for sale in their bird shops. When they discovered that
it was against the law to sell native wild birds, they released them to
avoid prosecution. These western aliens have made a good living in the
east and can now be found in all the eastern states.
It is almost always a bad idea to
introduce an alien species into an area. This is true whether the
species be bird, mammal, or plant. When this happens a native species
usually suffers from the competition.
Wildlife biologists are watching
very closely to see what effect the coyote population explosion in the
east is going to have on rabbits, deer, quail, turkeys, and other prey
species. A ride through the countryside almost anywhere in Alabama in
summer reminds us of the kudzu fiasco.
The introduction of the House
(English) Sparrow and the European Starling into North America was a
contributing factor in the decline of the Eastern Bluebird.
There is speculation that the
Purple Finch will not do well in competition with his western
House Finches are aggressive! They
gang up around feeders and fight among themselves. Smaller birds like
chickadees and titmice are intimidated by this rowdy crowd. The finches
are not people shy and will often come onto a porch or patio to build a
nest in a fern.
Do House Finches really have a
When my azaleas bloom I see
flocks working the flowers almost everyday. In early April when the
collard patch bolts and the plants are loaded with seed and bright
yellow flowers they are also loaded with House Finches. The first time I
saw this I assumed that the birds were eating the seeds. I got out the
binoculars for a closer look and discovered that they were eating the
flowers. A little quick research turned up the fact that House Finches
have been observed quite often eating flower petals.
The alien sweet tooth is the most
obvious when it drives the rascals to drink. Hummingbird feeders
make a good alien watering hole.
I havenít come up with a way to
prevent this on the feeders that do not have bee guards, nor have I been
able to keep them away from the sunflower seed feeder. I guess we will
just have to learn to live with and enjoy this "alien with a sweet