The Finch Family: Diversity Personified

By Dave Hanks

Fringilladae is a large, world wide family. These are Passerine species Ė medium to small, perching, terrestrial birds. They are mostly migratory, have 3 toes opposing one, and are fine singers. Finches are seed eaters, and America has 14 species in this category. They range in diversity from Goldfinches, to Grosbeaks, to Crossbills, to Red Polls, to Bramblings, to Siskins; and finally to Purple, House, and Cassinís Finches. The last three listed resemble each other, and are closely related.

The House Finch is the most familiar, as it is around the feeders in peopleís yards most of the year. Purple finches are a dark purplish-red, but are more of an eastern bird. All three birds combine reds with their browns. The females of the threesome are sparrow-like in appearance. Cassinís Finch is my favorite of this trio. Even though the Cassinís looks much like a House Finch, when the two are together you will see a noticeable difference. CASSINíS FINCH has a pinkish-red breast, and a dark red crown. The brightness of these two colors set it apart.

The male Cassinís sings long, complex songs. He may even mimic other species. The female sings too. Her song is softer than her mateís and only half the volume. A one year old male sings louder than either. He tones it down when heís mature. Perhaps itís to let any female know that he is now ready for mating. Interesting!

Some of the most positive things I did in my Biology classes were the field trips that we were fortunate to go on. We studied all aspects of whatever ecosystem we visited. On one such trip, two girls had situated themselves by a tiny creek. Birds were coming to the water. The girls were having a significant, eye opening experience. They didnít want to leave the spot to do anything but watch the birds. A species that they were especially enamored with was the Cassiní Finches that were coming in Ė their colors extra bright for the spring nesting season.

(Cassinís arriving in our yard is exciting and an added special touch)