Nests In Hanging Plants

Bird nest with eggs © Erin O'Brien
© Erin O'Brien

If you place hanging plants on a covered porch in the spring, or leave a holiday wreath hanging on the door, you may find that by April a small, brown-streaked bird has begun to build a nest in it. This is almost certainly a female house finch, a recent arrival in the East that in the last 40 years has made itself very much at home here.

About House Finches

This bird’s native range is in arid sections of the western United States and Mexico. In 1940, despite prohibitory laws, various caged-bird dealers in New York City were selling house finches (dubbed Hollywood finches) provided by California suppliers. A concerned citizen informed the federal government, and sales were abolished. However, some of the dealers released their birds to the wild. They are now found throughout the country.

The male house finch has a slender brown body slightly smaller than the house sparrow with bright red patches on the forehead, eyebrow, breast, and rump, and pronounced brown streaking on the sides and belly. The female is similar in size and shape but lacks the red coloration. Learn more about house finches

House Finch Nests

True to its name, the house finch stays close to buildings. During the nesting season (April to July), the male sings from an exposed perch near the nesting site, while the female builds a bulky nest positioned in a hanging plant, a wreath, an evergreen tree, a nest box or old nest of another bird, a porch-light fixture, or any other sheltered location on a house or building. Work on the nest continues after incubation and even after hatching. The birds tend not to be disturbed by noise or activity near their nests.

The female deposits two to six blue-white, usually speckled eggs that hatch within 12 to 16 days. The young fledge 11 to 19 days after hatching. The pair usually produces two broods in a season.

Unwanted Nests

Once a house finch pair has built a nest, the best course of action is to wait for the young to fledge (in three to four weeks). Don’t relocate the nest—the parents will abandon it. House finches will often reuse a nest. To discourage them from inhabiting the site, use bird netting or screening to block the area, or remove hanging plants or wreaths for a week or two.

Birds & the Law

Many of the birds and animals we encounter are protected in some way by local and national laws. Learn more