This spring, Colorado Springs seems to have an abundance of birds. I see them everywhere on my walks. They zoom overhead and occasionally scare me a little with their Kamikazee dives as I amble along. Some of the most daring of this year’s birds are House Finches. I’ve seen these gutsy little guys all over the place, and it’s such a pleasure to watch them because the males are quite beautiful. Here in Colorado, they have pink heads and breasts, and I’ve read that their plumage colors vary from state to state and are dependent on the local diet. It’s hard to find pictures of pinkish finches, so this is about as good as I can find:
(This may be a Purple Finch, but the colors are fairly close).
I looked up some finch history and found a few fascinating details about these little birds:
- The House Finch is native to the Western states. After World War I, a few of them were caught in California, where they were bred and sold in pet stores and called “Hollywood Finches.” Many of these birds were shipped to the larger Eastern cities and became popular housebirds (thus the name) in places like New York and Philadelphia.
- In the 1940’s, the sale of trapped wild songbirds was banned in the U.S. In order to avoid trouble, a pet store in Long Island released some of their House Finches into the skies of New York. After this, House Finches thrived all across the country. There are a few places where House Finches are really rare, like Kansas and Nebraska. Perhaps House Finches are Democrats, which is why they avoid the midwest. Maybe they don’t agree with intelligent design, either.
- Finches and sparrows often engage in battles for domination of certain parts of the country. This has gone on for eons. I found an old mid-1800’s newspaper article about sparrows and finches fighting for territory in Denver. That time, at least, the finches won.
- In the mid ’90’s, the House Finch population in the Eastern U.S. was decimated by a deadly eye infection, but they are now making a huge comeback.
Reading about Finch and Sparrow turf wars brought this movie to mind:
Someday, the world will once again belong to them. They were here before us, and they’ll remain long after we’re dust. Right now, they’re just biding their time.
ADDENDUM: Here is the rarest and most noble finch of all:
The Atticus Finch is extinct, but this compassionate and intelligent bird will live on forever in our hearts and minds.