Of all the birds that regularly use our feeders, none are more welcome than House Finches. Dee and I loved them when they used to come to our deck in California. And we love them now that they visit our yards in Texas.
However, there haven't always been House Finches in Texas. The species was originally limited in range to Mexico and the southwestern USA. Then, in the 1940s, people started to sell captive House Finches in New York City, where the birds were renamed "Hollywood Finches" in order to boost sales. When people realized that such trading in native birds was illegal, they started releasing the captive birds into the wild. And the finches bred and spread until they have now colonized the whole of the USA and even parts of Canada.
One reason why the House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) has been so successful is that it is one of the few birds that is aggressive enough to defend itself and its nesting sites from the invasive House Sparrow.
Female House Finches have brown backs and streaked fronts.
By contrast, most adult males have bright red on heads, necks and shoulders.
However, not all adult males are red. Depending on their diet, some males may be different colors. In California we often saw orange variants. Here in Texas, the variants we see are usually yellow or gold.
Other FinchesThere are two other species in the genus Carpodacus but one of them - Cassin's Finch (Carpodacus cassinii) - never visits southeast Texas. The other species is the Purple Finch (Carpodacus purpureus), which often visits our area in the winter. If you want to see Purple Finches, you should head down to Bear Creek Park in Houston, because several males and females have been living in the park for the past couple of months. The best place to look is at the junction of Sullins Way and Brandt.