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 have the same situation. The feeder is attached to the middle of a large picture window that goes ceiling to floor w/ no ledge or sill for animals to climb or balance. Yet every morning all the sunflower seeds have been cracked open and hulls left. Any ideas what it is?
    by Liza Fox, Sun, 15 Nov 2020
  • I have a bird feeder that sticks to my window and I've been hearing noises against the window at night right now its going on. But whatever it is it is aware of me. And when I get to window it leaves.I can't imagine a squirrel or mouse or possom being able to get at it. ...So as I was reading this article im to assume no bird eats at night. Or no birds will eat at night. Why is that? Then im also thinking of a sinereo that could a lost confused bird eat at night. This eating thing is watching meI turn out the light go there noise dissappears..Thank you.
    by Nosferatu, Thu, 05 Nov 2020
  • I have metal baffles (cones) on my pole for my bird feeders. Something is still tempting them at night. What else could it be? Deer???
    by Ella Spencer Connolly, Thu, 27 Aug 2020
  • I found where he lives, then I keep him up all day by singing at full volume! Hah, that'll show the little sucker!
    by Pike Juan, Tue, 11 Aug 2020
  • I never knew feeding birds could be so confusing. I love watching the birds in my backyard even though I don't get a very big variety.
    by JustMyOpinion, Sun, 26 Jul 2020