House Finch
Unofficial Bird of Nassau County, LI



An online essay on why the House Finch should have been chosen as Nassau County’s Official Bird.

This site is under construction. 
In the mean time, here are some “quotes of note”:

 

1. Nassau County, Long Island – First Home of the Eastern House Finch Population

I agree with you absolutely, the house finch would have been the perfect "official bird" [for Nassau County]. One of the most recent native additions to N. America avifauna (only 6-7 mil years ago from Eurasian Rosyfinch across Beringia), the most successful and fastest disperser of the last 200 years, one of the most numerous birds in N. America, species with the widest ecological range of any living bird species in the world, the house finches are amazing.

  Dr. Alexander Badyaev, University of Arizona (by e-mail)

One of the most notable ornithological events of the twentieth century in North America has been the spread of the House Finch throughout the eastern portion of the continent from a small number of birds liberated on Long Island, New York, in 1940.

  Dr. Geoffrey E. Hill, Auburn University
     Birds of North America Online – House Finch

“These escapees began breeding in the early 40s in Nassau County…” [emph. Added]

  John Ozard, New York State Department
     of Environmental Conservation (by e-mail)

From 1941 until 1948 people claimed to see these birds at various locations on [Long Island], and then in 1948 a specimen taken in Hewlette, Nassua County, confirmed what the public had been asserting all along. This bird, the first specimen of a free ranging wild eastern house finch, remains in mounted form in the American Museum of Natural History.

  The saga of the 'Hollywood finch' By Robert Tougias, theday.com, March 5, 2010


2. The House Finch Has Had a Uniquely Beneficial Impact on the Struggling Eastern Bluebird, the Official Bird of the State of New York.

HOFI-EABL
Pair of House Finches (left) with their friends, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds

By competing with the invasive English House Sparrow, which is blamed in large part for the near extinction of the Eastern Bluebird in many areas, the House Finch’s own introduction in the East may have helped save New York State’s own Official Bird.

 

I would like to suggest the hypothesis that House Finches have negatively impacted on the House Sparrow in the five Eastern states examined [which included New York].  The House Sparrow Decline in these states with large and well established House Finch populations has been considerably more rapid than the declines observed in southern states.

  — John C. Kricher, 1983, Correlation between House Finch Increase and House Sparrow decline, Am. Birds 37: 358-360


Last week, a house sparrow was harassing the bluebirds nesting in our backyard nestbox. The male EABL rammed the HOSP and took him down fighting on the ground.   A group of house finches, male and female, joined in the scuffle.   I counted nine of them. Needless to say, the HOSP retreated. I know they “hang out” together, but I never imagined they would do this!

  — Barbara Burnham, MD, From the discussion on the Bluebird Box forum Bluebirds and House Finches page

 

3. The House Finch is the Very Poster Bird for Avian Citizen Science Programs.

The House Finch’s unique history and appealing character aside, what really makes this species shine is the way it has brought birders and scientists together to answer complex biological questions.

  — Sarah Goodwin, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Studying House Finch eye disease—How you can help

 

4. House Finches Suffering From a Previously Unknown Songbird Disease Are Helping Expand Human Medical Science and May One Day Help Save Lives.

Why house finches? It is a mystery being investigated with financing from the National Institutes of Health, which is interested in the ecology of infectious diseases. … 12 groups  [were] initially chosen by the institutes and other federal agencies to study  how large-scale environmental events like habitat destruction and pollution affect diseases in humans and wildlife.

  — Jane E. Brody, Finches Fall Prey to Dangerous Infection, New York Times, January 1, 2002  [subscription]


"Part of this new grant is to figure out why," said [Cornell’s Dr. Andre] Dhondt. ... Furthermore, because the disease bears similarities with avian influenza and AIDS -- in that all involve transmission via direct contact, a highly mobile host and zoonosis (where the pathogen jumps species) -- the researchers hope these mycoplasma studies shed light on how other diseases spread.

  Cornell-led team receives $2.5 million to study house finch eye disease that could provide clues to avian flu and AIDS, Chronical Online, Oct. 9, 2006
 

 

I do think that you have made a good case for the house finch, a case I would never have thought of ... For what it is worth -- You can tell them that you have this SUNY distinguished teaching professor -- a title I rarely use and which has nothing to do with my natural history writing -- on your side.  Then wait until they stop laughing.

  Dr. Gerry Rising, “SUNY distinguished teaching professor” Nature Watch

 

The doctrinaire dismissal of the house finch by some conservationists says more about their bigotry than about the house finch. In my mind, your choice of the bird makes sense, particularly in light of their resilience and beautiful song. I was inspired to write my animal fantasy about the house finch because the plight of the house finch is a metaphor for the larger struggles in both nature and human society against victimization. I applaud your efforts on behalf of our feisty friends.

  — Dr. DL Hendricks, Western Illinois University, author of “Tobee and the Amazing Bird Choir,” a fictional account for older children about the plight of the original petshop house finches in Brooklyn in 1940.