Jan 9, 2019 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, February 2019

House Finches and Winter Weather

House finches don't pack on pounds in the winter. Photo by Pheanix / Wikimedia Commons.
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Many birds prepare for the rigors of winter by adding weight in the form of fat layers. They do this by increasing their feeding rates and by seeking out fat-rich food sources. House finches—which can be a joy or a plague, depending on how many are frequenting your feeder—apparently do not use this strategy. A study of house finches at a feeder in Indiana indicates that the birds do not gain weight with the onset of cold weather. Researchers banded and weighed birds for three years, compared the winter and summer weights of the males, and found that there was no statistical difference. The researchers did not include the weights of females in their studies because it is impossible to tell immature males from females, and males weigh more than females on average.

If house finches do not counter the effects of cold weather by changing their weight, how do they deal with winter? The researchers suggest that the birds respond the way some other species do: by altering their metabolic rates to produce more heat at times when it is needed. So when you see the feeder full of house finches and they are cleaning out the sunflower seed, don’t worry about them getting out of shape. House finches don’t pack on pounds in winter.



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  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021
  • What is emptying my jelly feeder overnight.
    by Gary Vandervest, Wed, 25 Aug 2021
  • Thank you, Dawn. I'm close enough to Ohio (Ann Arbor, Michigan) that I went ahead and took my tubes down and scoured clean all my bird baths. I won't put up my tubes this winter, just my trays and safflower only just to keep the bullies away for a while.
    by Pat Moore, Mon, 09 Aug 2021