A pair of red finchess

Today I saw a bird I didn’t recognize. At first I thought it was an immature Cardinal, but when I got a closer look, I saw that the beak was not rose or red, but white. There were two birds: a pale grey-beige female and a matching male with a red-head and a gray-beige body. Both have pale beaks and they can’t be Cardinals.

Heavily cropped but sadly, not sharp — so — I went for artistic. You can, at least, see the colors properly

I went on line and couldn’t find any local birds resembling them. I dug out my books … and the only bird these two can be are a pair of red finches, birds that were introduced here as caged birds in the 1940s and 1950s. They appear to be building a nest in the tree in front of my picture window.

The male of the species

In any case, I can’t find anything else they could be. They are known to be occasional, accidental travelers to this region, but are rare. The good news? These are big time insect eaters. Maybe they heard about our massive attack of Gypsy caterpillars and moved here for the chow. Maybe we can get a whole flock of them? I’d like that!

They have been on the branch in front of my window on and off for the past four or five days. Today, they were in my view much of the day and I badly wanted pictures. The only way I could shoot them would be through my picture window. And the branch on which they have decided to perch is far off to the left side of the window. A difficult angle at best.

I shot more than 100 pictures of the birds and maybe a half-dozen were remotely acceptable. All of these have been cropped, some heavily. All the pictures were blurry. Streaked windows, too many branches, buds, and leaves. I can’t shoot them from the ground — they would be invisible in the tree. These are as good as I’ll get. More than a little frustrating.

If anyone has a better idea what these birds might be, I’d be happy to hear from you! They do look like red finches. If they are moving in here, that will be great for the birds and as far as I am concerned, every bug-eating bird and bat is welcome to settle down on my place.

Beautiful birds, your dinner is waiting. Come and get it!


  1. slmret April 27, 2017 / 12:14 am

    Those are beautiful birds! Are summer cardinals a separate species, or a summer plumage? I hope you do get a flock of them to eat your monarch caterpillars!


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:32 am

      They are separate species and generally live further south and west. That they’ve moved in here is a sign that they are expanding their range, which is good. They have not been doing well. And yes, they really DO eat caterpillars.

      Liked by 1 person

      • slmret April 27, 2017 / 12:37 am

        That’s great that they are expanding their range — they must be going after the newfound source of food in the caterpillars.


        • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:10 pm

          I sure HOPE so! But they caterpillars may be too big for them. These guys eat mostly smaller bugs, like aphids and mosquitoes. Even that would be a help.


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 2:04 am

      I think you may be right. They could be red house finches. Apparently these were introduced here (not native to the region) about 40 years ago and have been spreading every since. They are originally from the southwest and were sold (illegally) as pets in cages and have taken over, more or less pushing out the native purple finches that used to live here. They aren’t in my bird book, probably because it’s an old book and they weren’t established here when I bought it back in the 1970s, but since they they have really moved in. So I think you’re right.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 5:42 pm

          They have apparently spread across the entire continent and into Canada, taking over for many song birds that have begun to disappear. Fortunately, most people like these little guys. They do sing very sweetly.

          Liked by 1 person

          • slmret April 27, 2017 / 5:44 pm

            As much as I like the little house finches, it’s sad that they are pushing out your more colorful cardinals and other song birds!


            • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 5:46 pm

              We had a lot of cardinals until about two years ago. And robins. We had lots of them. Now, we rarely see them. i think these guys may be pushing, but they are also drifting away. i don’t even know why.


                • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 7:26 pm

                  I don’t know. Here, not much. We have no industry at all and the water is reasonably clean, certainly lot cleaner than it was 40 years ago. It IS colder in the winter than it was, but I don’t know that this is a long-term thing. We’ve had a significant drought, too. But I suspect it’s some kind of poison being used on plants, maybe along the highways.

                  Liked by 1 person

  2. slmret April 27, 2017 / 12:17 am

    Also — I wonder if these could be house finches — looking at the almost striped belly striations, they seem more finch-like.


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:33 am

      I don’t THINK so, but it’s the ONLY other possibility. The striations are more obvious in the pictures than they were just looking at them. I’m going to stare at them some more, tomorrow. They apparently have moved in. Regardless, the only finch they could be ALSO doesn’t live here. It’s not a familiar bird. In fact, I’ve never seen them before.


  3. Covert Novelist April 27, 2017 / 12:27 am

    I have no idea how you do that, but wow, does that make for a spectacular picture! Love it.


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:35 am

      It’s a filter, but even so, it’s pretty complicated. It’s four or five levels of filter on top of each other. And these were very difficult because the pictures weren’t good in the first place. I didn’t have much to work with.


      • Covert Novelist April 27, 2017 / 12:42 am

        Well, if that’s not much to work with, then, …..wow! Impressive!!!


  4. evilsquirrel13 April 27, 2017 / 12:49 am

    I’ve never heard of a summer cardinal before…. I just assumed all cardinals had the classic red and black plumage or played baseball. It definitely has a cardinal-like beak…


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 1:28 am

      You know, SOME Cardinals play FOOTBALL. In Arizona.
      There are a few of them … not a lot. Like four? this one usually lives down south, but has apparently decided we have better food. Anything that eats bugs is welcome at MY house!


  5. queenofdanile April 27, 2017 / 7:31 am

    We have tons of purple, red, yellow finches who dine just outside my kitchen windows. Hang up a feeder with Niger thistle and sunflower chips… and they will come. ’tis a bird Field of Dreams. 😉


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:09 pm

      these red ones are not native to this part of the country, but apparently they were being illegally sold by pet stores, who when about to get busted. released them. Now, they are almost everywhere on the continent. They are pushy little birds, so they dislodge more local, less aggressive birds. But they are pretty and they aren’t a European import, so they might well have gotten here on their own anyway.


  6. loisajay April 27, 2017 / 8:12 am

    Not a clue, but the artistry is great, Marilyn. I especially love that second picture.


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:11 pm

      The pictures were so blurry or so weirdly off color, artistic was my last hope for getting anything from the shots. I’m glad these came out, at least. They were a struggle.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:05 pm

      I think you are right. They don’t sound like cardinals, either. And they are smaller.


  7. swo8 April 27, 2017 / 10:58 am

    The cardinals are back here now too. You can usually identify them by their bird song. There may be variation in colouring among the species. Can you remember the bird song?


    • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:07 pm

      The cardinals have a loud “tweep, tweep, tweep” … or at least the boys do. I haven’t heard the ladies make much noise. We probably have a pair of them somewhere too.

      They do come in different colors, but these aren’t them. That’s what I thought when I first say them … immature cardinals. But they are smaller and “finchier,” if that’s a word 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • swo8 April 27, 2017 / 12:23 pm

        There’s always the possibility of cross breading or it could be a new comer to your area.


        • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 12:53 pm

          It has more or less taken over the continent, so cross-breeding isn’t very likely. But in fairness, it WAS a native north american bird, so it probably would have arrived anyway, eventually. And it is a pretty little thing. If you click on the red letters at the beginning of the post, there’s a Wiki article about how these have spread over the years. interesting. We could use some new birds. Some of our older ones haven’t been doing well.

          Liked by 1 person

          • swo8 April 27, 2017 / 3:22 pm

            I notice that the morning bird song isn’t as vigorous as it once was, so a lot of our birds are disappearing.


            • Marilyn Armstrong April 27, 2017 / 4:26 pm

              Some of it is natural. The population of many birds fluctuates. But many are crashing due to changes in human population, various poisons in the environment … and periodically, their own diseases. We may be the biggest portion of change in terms of altering the environment, but we aren’t the only one. So the movement of a hardy bird from the west is not such a bad thing … and they ARE pretty.

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Paula May 2, 2017 / 4:10 am

    I wish I could help you identify these species, but I am an ignorant when it comes to most birds. This is a very good idea to go for aquarelle when having a bit of blur in the image. Thank you for inspiring, Marilyn. I have enjoyed these images a lot 🙂


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