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House finch        Images © Mark A. Chappell

The ubiquitous house finch and its bubbling song is very familiar to all birders in the western US.   Until fairly recently (within the last century or so), house finches were only found west of the Rocky Mountains, but they have colonized areas to the east at a rapid rate.   Ecologists and evolutionary biologists have followed this population expansion with great interest, and have also studied many other aspects of house finch biology, such as their ability to adapt to the cold winters of the Northeastern US.  Of particular fascination is the highly variable plumage coloration in males: the red color is a function of the amount of carotenoids in the diet, and the area and intensity of 'redness' may indicate a male's foraging abilities and hence might signal his genetic and parental-care quality to potential mates.  This rather red male house finch was photographed at Big Morongo Reserve in southeastern California.

  • digital capture, Canon 10D, 500mm f4 IS lens plus 1.4X converter, fill-in flash (2004)