It was 1940 in California. A few entrepeneuring cage-bird dealers hatched a scheme to capture some native House Finches, ship them to Manhattan, and sell them as “Hollywood Finches.” It seemed like a great marketing ploy to boost their business, but instead, their plan boosted a small population of birds that previously had been relegated to the southwest corner of our great nation. The scheme was illegal, of course, but there was money to be made, so the birds were shipped. Fearing prosecution, the store owners in Manhattan simply released the birds. No evidence, no charges. Now, the House Finch is present from coast to coast, and border to border.
The males are hard to miss with their sing-songy warbles and dazzling purple plumage. To the non-birder, it’s the purple sparrow, the one that God dipped into a bowl of ripened raspberries.
Is there a suburb anywhere in the US that lacks these Hollywood transplants? The proliferate species easily adapted to the suburban landscape, making our homes its own.
A resident who lives on the lake sent me a photograph of the House Finches in her hanging basket. Yes, they’re not from around here, but aren’t they adorable?