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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  • Scrub Jay's are the best!!!
    by Iris Delgado, Thu, 09 May 2019
  • How can I separate nyler seeds from hulls finshes kick out? They toss out so much expensive seed along with the hulls of the seeds they have eaten. How can I separate them so I can return the still whole seeds back into the feeder?
    by Seen From Here, Sat, 04 May 2019
  • We had some cases of what I think was avian trichomonosis here this summer in central NY. Are you hearing anything about that? My understanding is that even the hawks can get it from consuming infected song birds.
    by D.Mac, Sat, 04 May 2019
  • I have experienced this when a house wren punctured 5 blue bird eggs last spring in our blue bird box. Then I hung out a wren box by the trees and he got busy filling it and left the bluebirds alone and they successfully raised another brood!
    by Susan, Sun, 07 Apr 2019
  • I also have several turkeys that live in the woods behind me. They visit early morning and near sundown. Living in the country with a mountain and brook behind my house, I have animals visiting 24hrs a day. My turkeys are awesome. They know me and wait for their breakfast. They hop up on my patio wall to look in my windows. I also noticed the 2 birds that are the lookouts. They come over to eat as the others march across my lawn to my neighbor who also feeds the animals. We also have coyotes that, I am sure, have eaten turkey dinner. The squirrels run around and chase them to protect their seeds and cracked corn. I feed my 3 raccoons peanut butter jelly sandwiches, which they share with a possum and 3 skunks, at the same time, by the way. No food goes into my garbage. Meat scraps go to crows and hawks. Everything else, even soup, gets eaten before the sun is completely set. That keeps bears away if no dishes are there to entice. I break up bread in tiny pieces now and turkeys 'gobble' it up. So happy to find another person that enjoys wildlife. Nothing is more satisfying than walking out side and spotting Daisy the skunk, calling her name and watching her tripping all over herself, running to meet you. Thank you for your valuable information.
    by Stella Kachur, Wed, 27 Mar 2019