Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? (2024)

A sweet, yet loud and rambling neighbor, the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is native to mostly arid sections of the western United States and Mexico. With human help, they have been spread across many parts of North America.

You may have seen them at your feeder. But they may even be closer than that.

A sound coming from one of your hanging plants? That’s odd.

This was my first reaction as well. As I inched closer and took a peek in my hanging fern on the porch, my curiosity was answered when I saw a small nest with four little helpless nestlings inside.

That’s right. You may find that your backyard house finches have a thing for not only your feeders, but also your hanging plants!

Who is the House Finch?

The history of the house finch is quite an interesting one indeed. Thinking that they would make attractive pets due to the male’s bright red chests, these birds were captured in the wild and shipped to New York City in 1940.

According to the National Audubon Society, more than 100,000 wild, and mostly male, house finches were captured and sent to New York. Their name would then change for marketing purposes, and soon they were later dubbed “Hollywood Finches.” The National Audubon Society later exposed these illegal pet traders, and pet stores gradually began to set the house finches loose back into the wild.

House finches are about the same size as a house sparrow and weigh anywhere from 0.67-0.78 oz. Males are mostly rosy red around their face and upper breast, while females are mostly brown with blurry streaks down their belly. House finches are seed eaters, so you will very likely find them in small flocks having a feast and enjoying your backyard feeders.

“The house finch has always been our family’s favorite feeder bird,” says Jarod Hitchings, fellow bird enthusiast and lover of house finches. “The jeer-sounding warbling song fills our backyard with natural music.”

You can find house finches in and around other habitats including city parks and around forest edges.

Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? (1)

Why Hanging Plants?

Staying true to their name, house finches will stay very close to buildings. So it is no surprise that these lovable birds favor our hanging plants or any other greenery that we have near our homes.

During their nesting season (April to July) female house finches may choose to build her nest in a more sheltered location like a hanging plant, a wreath, or even a porch light fixture that is positioned around your home.

Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? (2)

Their nests are an open-cup shape made up of mostly grass, weeds, twigs, and other debris. The female will lay anywhere from two to six blue-white speckled eggs that will usually hatch anywhere from 12 to 16 days. Once the chicks hatch, they will fledge anywhere between 11 to 19 days.

Why does it seem like house finches as well as other birds favor these peculiar places to nest, particularly hanging plants like ferns?

A hanging basket that is full of ferns is a natural place for a bird to nest and it provides enough cover for them to feel secure and safe.

Additionally, hanging baskets, as well as wreaths and light fixtures are high off the ground, which makes it a challenge for certain predators to reach.

A Difficult Neighbor

If you find that a pair of house finches has built a nest in certain areas or objects around your home, be sure not to bother or approach it often, for your scent could lead other predators to the nest. Also, do not relocate the nest or the pair will abandon it.

Although we all do love our feathered friends, over time, the presence of a bird can have some negative effects on your hanging plant.

Birds can leave behind a clutter of food remnants and debris, so if you feel the need to discourage them from using things like your hanging plants in the future, there are many safe solutions you can try, including using bird netting or screening to block the area. You can also choose to remove your hanging plants or wreaths for a week or two.

Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? (3)

A Key Focal Species for Researchers and Birdwatchers

The house finch is a very peculiar and neat bird, and not many may know just how smart they are. Not only are house finches memorable to birdwatchers, but they are also a key focal species in current research being studied in labs around the world. Work from one of these labs, The Hill Lab at Auburn University, will be discussed in another article coming soon.

Until then, remember to enjoy the presence of the house finch, and the next time you hear your hanging plants “sing,” think of it as a wonderful opportunity to observe and enjoy the wonder that a pair of house finch parents raising their young can bring to your backyard.

Join the Discussion

6 comments

  1. What a great article on house finches.
    I’ve watched them in my yard and on the feeders, but not in my hanging plants. But, there are wrens in my planters and they may discourage the
    finches. Nonetheless, they are charming little birds! ?

    Reply

  2. I had house finches nesting in nesting box I installed on my 20th floor balcony in Toronto a few years back, not far from the downtown. Love their beautiful, intricate song.

    Reply

  3. We live in middle Tennessee and we see these beautiful birds every spring. I have a forsythia wreath on my front porch that has a nest in in right now.

    Reply

  4. I’m watching 6 babies fledge today. I haven’t used my front door for a couple months because they started building a nest in the covered overhang. The babies are so big now and the nest so small they’re on top of each other. I just noticed today they’re taking short flights and returning, so I should be able to use my front door again in a few days. It was worth it!

    Reply

  5. The males on my feeders have red rumps, also.

    Reply

  6. House finches have nested in my basket hanging from a second story balcony. I love the song and am a big fan of the birds, but how can I make sure the fern is watered during the nesting season without disturbing the birds?

    Reply

Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? (2024)

FAQs

Why Do House Finches Love Your Hanging Plants? ›

A hanging basket that is full of ferns is a natural place for a bird to nest and it provides enough cover for them to feel secure and safe. Additionally, hanging baskets, as well as wreaths and light fixtures are high off the ground, which makes it a challenge for certain predators to reach.

How do you keep house finches out of hanging baskets? ›

Try lining the inside of your hanging basket with aluminum foil to keep them away. Reflective tape: Place tape around the base or basket of your hanging plant. This will create a unique style of decoration while also deterring birds from your property.

Are house finches good to have around? ›

Their plant-based diets might suggest peace-loving passivity, but House Finches can be very aggressive, especially at feeders. In fact, they're so territorial around food and nest sites that they're one of the only birds known to fight off non-native House Sparrows.

How do you protect hanging baskets from birds? ›

Use Wire Mesh

Using chicken wire or other wire mesh around hanging baskets can prevent birds from nesting, but will cover the appearance of the plant. After birds are done nesting, the wire can be removed, but be careful, because some birds, barn swallows, are late nesters or nest multiple times a year.

What to do if a bird builds a nest in your hanging plant? ›

Place a similar hanging basket lined with coir or moss next to the original and move the nest into the new place. If you have a hanging plant with birds, this simple eviction will usually do the trick. As a preemptive step, hang the basket every year when you hang your others.

Do House Finches nest in hanging plants? ›

During their nesting season (April to July) female house finches may choose to build her nest in a more sheltered location like a hanging plant, a wreath, or even a porch light fixture that is positioned around your home. Their nests are an open-cup shape made up of mostly grass, weeds, twigs, and other debris.

What attracts finches to your yard? ›

Growing specific plants can help attract certain birds to your yard. Finches like backyards that have open, grassy field-like space. Plant grassy, weedy species, as well as plants and flowers with many seeds. Goldfinches are known to enjoy thistle plants.

How do I keep birds out of my hangers? ›

Using a combination of bird netting, bird deterrents, and bird repellents in your airplane hanger will protect your aircraft and the people that maintain them.

How do you protect hanging baskets? ›

Fleece, an old blanket, and even a plastic tarp can all be used to trap heat into the soil and reduce root damage. If using a non-porous material, remember to remove it occasionally to allow the plant to breathe and avoid mildew issues from excess condensation.

Can I water a hanging basket with a bird's nest in it? ›

Generally, we recommend against watering planters when they contain an active nest.

What does the female house finch look like? ›

Adult females aren't red; they are plain grayish-brown with thick, blurry streaks and an indistinctly marked face. House Finches are gregarious birds that collect at feeders or perch high in nearby trees. When they're not at feeders, they feed on the ground, on weed stalks, or in trees.

How do I keep birds from nesting in my hanging ferns? ›

7 Ways to Keep Birds Away from Ferns
  1. Planting Bird-Repellent Plants. ...
  2. Using Reflective Objects. ...
  3. Wind Chimes And Alarms. ...
  4. Motion-Activated Sprinklers. ...
  5. Scarecrows. ...
  6. Setting Up Physical Barriers. ...
  7. Chemical Bird Deterrents.
Nov 28, 2023

How do I keep birds out of my hanger? ›

Maintenance of weather-stripping on the doors and elimination of holes, loose panels, and other potential bird access points will also help keep birds out -- look up during the day and eliminate any point of light. One option for eliminating the perches and nest sites inside the hangar is netting selected areas.

How do you keep finch birds away? ›

Flags that move in the wind are the cheapest, most effective ways to scare birds. Predator statues such as lifelike scarecrows, owls, coyotes, snakes or cats that can be moved around every few days. Shiny objects such as old CDs, foil pans or silver reflective tape.

How to prevent birds from nesting in hanging ferns? ›

7 Ways to Keep Birds Away from Ferns
  1. Planting Bird-Repellent Plants. ...
  2. Using Reflective Objects. ...
  3. Wind Chimes And Alarms. ...
  4. Motion-Activated Sprinklers. ...
  5. Scarecrows. ...
  6. Setting Up Physical Barriers. ...
  7. Chemical Bird Deterrents.
Nov 28, 2023

How do you control House Finches? ›

Control methods often require the use of nets to keep house finches from reaching crops or flowers. Limiting possible nest sites, such as woodpiles and overgrown shrubs, also helps limit populations. House finches are protected by federal law, which means it is illegal to kill them.

References

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