Monday, March 10, 2008

A Rainbow of Finches

Spring is finally edging into Utah Valley and with its return come the house finches, always the first and most ravenous guests at my backyard feeders. As of yet they're still timid, but the male finches are showing their dramatic mating plumage.

Standard coloration is a red forehead and neck with eye streaks and a wash onto the chest, but I've had both orange and yellow color variants visit in the past. Thus far this season only the standard red males and one yellow male have made appearances at the feeder, accompanied of course by the more camouflaged buff females.

There is no definitive explanation for the color variations; some ornithologists speculate that it may be due to regional separations, while others favor the idea of a dietary influence or even poor nutrition. Neither explanation seems suitable to me: both colors share the same feed and territory regularly in my backyard. My theory is that it is no more complex than the genetic hair color variations among humans: some people have red hair, others blonde. Regardless of the scientific explanation, I find the different colors to be a beautiful palette to enjoy as spring strengthens.

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