The Misnamed “House Finch”

These Haemorhous mexicanus swarmed in the park this afternoon, as they do fairly often in January.  This is one of those birds whose Latin scientific name is more descriptive than its common given name.  It’s a native of Mexico, including the large Western area of the current United States that used to be part of Mexico until the border went south.  It got the monicker “house finch” because some entrepreneur in the early 1900s captured a quantity of them and shipped them to New York City for sale as house pets under the label “Hollywood Finch.”  This was illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.  To avoid prosecution in 1940, numbers of bird stores and owners set the birds free.  They adapted to the unfamiliar Eastern environments and thrived.  For decades, there were distinct populations on the West Coast and the East Coast.  Today they’re found year-round in every state of the U.S.  There may be more than a billion of these birds in North America.   For more information, see Wikipedia and the Cornell bird and the Audubon websites.  

 

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