CALIFORNIA FINCHES: HOUSE FINCH AND LESSER GOLDFINCH
A native of the western states, the House Finch, can be found all over the United States, thanks to its recent introduction to the east coast. Its twittering song can be heard on the ground or up in trees, frequenting city parks, urban centers and backyards.
This small-bodied finch has a large beak used to crack open seeds. While males are distinctive for their red faces, upper breast and rump, the females are grayish-brown. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male available.
House Finches are very sociable birds that can be seen collecting near feeders. Their native habitats include grasslands, chaparral, oak savannah and open woodland. They primarily feed their nestlings plant food, which is a rare practice when it comes to birds. Then again, House Finches almost exclusively eat plant materials such as seeds and fruits.
Like the House Finch, the Lesser Goldfinch is a gregarious bird that tends to collect at weedy fields, bird feeders and other feedings sites. They often gather in groups of several hundred at a time, feeding on seeds and grains. They can be seen eating with other seed-eating songbirds.
Lesser Goldfinches are small songbirds, much like the House Finch. Males are bright yellow with a black cap and white patches on the wings. In the West Coast, the males have olive green backs. Females also have olive green backs as well as black wings marked by whitish wing bars. They are at home in open habitats, forest clearings, farmlands, scrublands and weedy fields, but can also be seen in suburban yards looking for seeds. Although they eat seeds mostly from the sunflower family, Lesser Goldfinches also eat fruit. The Lesser Goldfinch uses its bill to pry open seeds.
Interestingly, human expansion has actually benefitted the species, forcing them to expand their range near Los Angeles. One should have little trouble spotting either the House Finch or the Lesser Goldfinch.