Berry meal

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It’s Sunday, so it’s time for another photo of the week and the story behind the image.

I see a lot of House Finches in our area, like this male House Finch feeding on berries in Sharon Woods Metro Park north of Columbus, Ohio. But I didn’t know the birds aren’t native to this area until I was doing some research in preparation for writing about this photo.

The House Finch is native to the western United States and Mexico, according to my favorite source for bird information, All About Birds. Someone attempted to sell House Finches as cage birds, calling them “Hollywood finches,” but when that effort failed a small number were turned loose on Long Island, N.Y., in 1940. Within no time the birds spread across the eastern U.S. and southern Canada, with an estimated population in North America of between 267 million and 1.4 billion.

Male House Finches have rosy red faces, chests and rumps. When I see one in my peripheral vision flying past, the red is so conspicuous that my first reaction is “cardinal” until I get a better look. Females are less eye-catching, with grayish-brown feathers without a trace of red.

According to All About Birds, "The red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly). So the more pigment in the food, the redder the male. This is why people sometimes see orange or yellowish male House Finches. Females prefer to mate with the reddest male they can find, perhaps raising the chances they get a capable mate who can do his part in feeding the nestlings.”

This House Finch was among a group feasting on berries in a stand of trees on a fall morning. The birds all had berry “leftovers” on their heads and beaks, as this one did.

Each week I will post a photo from my collection with an explanation of how I got the shot. Previous photos of the week are in the archives.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Date/time: Oct. 21, 2006, 10:58 a.m. 
Location: 40°6’50” N, 82°57’30” W (Show in Google Maps) 
Camera: Canon EOS 20D 
Lens: Canon EF 600mm f/4L, Canon 1.4x teleconverter (840mm) 
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter: 1/800th second
ISO: 400