The house finch , like the common redpoll, is increasing steadily in number in our region, as demonstrated in part by observations at winter bird feeders, maintained in our garden since 2001. Both sexes of these streaky finches are typically found together, brown females and red-washed males, on any given day. The house finch has become one of the staples of the winter bird feeder population. In the last six weeks of 2013, for example, these birds included small flocks of slate-coloured juncos and house finches, the most abundant species, plus occasional small groups of mourning doves, sporadic visits by American goldfinches, and five other species, mostly in ones and twos: American tree sparrow, black-capped chickadee, blue jay, hairy woodpecker and downy woodpecker.
The house finch is actually not native to Ontario, though it is a natural inhabitant of western North America from British Columbia to southern Mexico, and east to Texas. It became established in the east after caged birds were released in Long Island, New York in 1940. The first officially documented appearance of the bird in Ontario was in Prince Edward County in 1972, and evidence of breeding was found at Niagara Falls in 1978. Ten years later, its presence was still limited in southern Ontario (Cadman et al., 1987). The house finch thrives in a similar niche to the ubiquitous house sparrow, and so it does well in urban settings. Further reports of its progress came in through the 1990s (e.g., Whelan, 1992, 1994). Kozlovic (1994) wrote a very interesting and detailed account of the release and surprising success of the finch in the eastern half of the continent.
The explosive range expansion of the house finch in Ontario is evident when one compares the range maps in the first and second breeding bird atlases of the province (Cadman et al., 1987, 2007). The species evidently expanded into Trent Hills during this 20- year period. The house finch was first reported at Presqu'ile park on 20 May 1976, and it has been reported every year since 1981 (LaForest, 1993, pp.381-382). In the Kawarthas, early records are listed by Sadler (1983, pp.161- 162). The earliest report was in the city of Peterborough on 19 August 1980.
Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.
Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.
Kozlovic,DR (1994) The house finch in Ontario. In `Ornithology in Ontario' (McNicholl,MK and Cranmer-Byng,JL editors), Ontario Field Ornithologists Spec.Publ. 1, 400pp., 298-306.
LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park, Brighton, Ontario / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.
Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.
Whelan,P (1992) Serene smiles and kite mania at Point Pelee. Globe and Mail, 1p., 23 May.
Whelan,P (1994) Horned grebes in the bathtub. Globe and Mail, D4, 05 February.