Sunday, May 17, 2009

What bird is that?... Questions and answers

Patti's nesting House Finch saga...

Question: "A house finch built a nest in the wreath on my front door. It is against the glass window on the door so I have been watching the progress of the nesting female. The eggs hatched about a week ago and the mother bird has been attentive and feeding the babies until today. I haven't seen her at all. Has she abandoned the nest? Also, there have been two male house finches hanging around. Any info would be appreciated."


Patti writes back on May 9: "I've seen her a few times since my original email to you. I'm not really familiar with bird behavior so was worried. The babies appear to be growing so I guess she's feeding them. Are the males involved in feeding the young also?"

Answer: I looked it up and it seems the male in all finches feed the young, sometimes even feed the female while she is incubating.

Patti writes back on May 10: "This is all new to me - and fascinating! This morning, the mother bird is in the nest with the babies -- is that common behavior at this point (10 days give or take after they've hatched)? I greatly appreciate your info!"

Answer: In general, the birds lay one egg a day until the whole clutch is complete before beginning incubation. Thus, all the eggs can hatch the same day. That takes about 3 weeks. Then, about 3 weeks later the young will fledge.

Patti writes back on May 13: "Yesterday it appeared the nest was empty! That's approx. 2 weeks after hatching. However, both male and female are still hanging around and occasionally look into the nest. That's the wildlife report for now...."

Answer: This seemed a little soon to me, but John K. Terres writes in "The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds" (1980) that incubation in House Finch is 12-16 days and that fledglings leave the nest 11-19 days after hatching. So it seems that fledging took place right on schedule... and faster than I had expected! Rarely do we have a chance to follow the entire nesting cycle. But, now, thanks to Patti, we've all been able to experience it from beginning to end. Thanks!

Send your queries about Pacific Northwest bird identification or behavior or other topics. I'll do my best to figure out what you saw. I'll do some research. Then I'll write an article to answer your question. If you have a certain question, no doubt others will, too, and appreciate knowing the answer. My goal will be to do one Q & A article each week, answering all the questions I receive that week. I'll just use your first name and city in my answers. If you send photos I will likely use them (perhaps cropping and adjusting exposure for the web) so others can see what you are seeing.

Send questions to me using this link: PNWBB Q & A