Every couple of years we have the pleasure of hosting one or more nesting sites close to our home. By close, I mean, for example, the lilac bushes right up against the western wall or the bush adjacent to the front steps. One year, the nest in the lilacs next to the front steps prompted us to block off the sidewalk to delivery folks and motivated us to use our back door through the entire breeding season.
This year, a pair of house finches have decided to use our front porch eves as a nesting site. There seems to be a bit of a problem, however. The nest does not seem to be coming together. I am nervous for the finches. They seem like such a cute couple. They fly everywhere together and seem supportive and determined. Yet the nest isn’t forming and moss and other plant material are collecting on the porch floor.
Concern sent me searching the internet for insight. In the January 1913 issue of Auk, an article by W. H. Bergtold, MD offered The Study of the House Finch. The author describes the design of ideal nesting boxes. The design sounds very similar to the pitch and shape of our eves. The only problem with the bird’s choice of location is that the cross beam on which they are building is probably too narrow.
So, why did they choose this site? I can only speculate, but here are a few considerations. First, the shape of the space seems mostly correct and the height, at roughly 13 feet from the ground, is right in their sweet spot. Although, the porch site does seem rather conspicuous and potentially noisy. However, there are plenty of nesting observations that suggest that this won’t bother nor deter them.
The next priority is probably food sourcing. These birds have been known to enjoy maple sap in the spring and there are several sugar maples framing the property. Bergtold also noted that the finches eat blossom buds from lilacs and apple trees. Check, again. There are at least 8 mature lilac bushes and three apple trees within their line of sight. Eating a predominately plant and seed-based diet, the finches have lots of local options and ample supply for their future nestlings.
Assuming they are successful in completing the nest, we can expect an average clutch size of 4 eggs. Bergtold mentions that the female sings an ‘egg cry’ when laying which is answered by the male. I will be listening for her song.
The incubation period is around 14 days, then the newly hatched brood remains for about 14 more days.
If they lay the eggs, we will be taking pictures and talking non-stop about the chicks like expectant grandparents. When they leave the nest, we will be sad, yet proud and hopeful.
A Study of the House Finch by W. H. Bergtold, MD — https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/auk/v030n01/p0040-p0073.pdf