Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hollywood Finches

Male House Finch


The House Finch is native to Mexico and the American Southwest. A hundred years ago that was the only place you would find them. Then in the early 1900s, pet dealers in the eastern U.S. started selling House Finches by giving them the sexier name, "Hollywood Finches." Trading in House Finches was illegal, but the laws were only sporadically enforced. In the 1940s, when enforcement efforts relating to songbird regulations were increased, pet stores in New York released the birds to avoid prosecution. Within a few years, people noticed House Finches breeding on Long Island. By the 1960s, they were common all along the East Coast. From there they spread rapidly, and by the 1990s, the eastern population had rejoined the western birds.
Even though House Finches are native to North America, they are still an introduced species for the eastern half of the continent. They are not really a "bad bird." It's just that there are so many of them! They are now so common at bird feeders that I have seen a special type of thistle feeder advertised as "House Finch-proof." One of the problems I see with House Finches is their name. It is so boring! It's easy to imagine pet store owners quadrupling their sales when they renamed them "Hollywood Finches." Glamour sells.
Female House Finch and Male House Finch
My own suggestion for improving the image of the House Finch is this: We change the name again! This time, however, we don't choose the glitz of Hollywood, but we go back to the birds' roots. We simply take the House Finch's Latin name, Carpodacus mexicanus, and call the bird Mexican Finch. Tell me...what would you rather have coming to your bird feeders: House Finches or Mexican Finches? I rest my case.

1 comment:

  1. I vote for Mexican Finch. In honor of their heritage. Plus it does sound more exotic to an eastener. I like the birds.

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