Nature On The Front Porch

Read how a hanging planter of sunny yellow petunias is now the home to a new family of house finches.

I recently purchased a beautiful hanging basket with sunny yellow petunias to brighten up my front doorway for spring. Within a few days, however, the basket was taken over by a pair of house finches. The male kept watch while the female built a cozy nest right in the center of the blooms.

When I realized what was going on, and that the basket is no longer mine, I’ve been careful to walk slowly when I come and go from my home. I even placed a “Do Not Water!” sign on the planter in case any of my neighbors were feeling neighborly. Occasionally, I’d see the female finch, hard at work, darting past me quickly, to let me know she’s very aware of my presence. But while it hasn’t been hostile; it’s definitely a “lookout! I’m here!” interaction.

For a couple of days, there was a flurry of activity, which the cats and I could see from the living room window. The basket moved and swayed as the nest was under heavy construction, and the pair of birds darted from the trees back to the nest, often carrying the building materials: twigs, fluff, dryer lint, and other items from the ground.

I had so many questions. Are there eggs in there? Will my coming and going disturb the nest? When will they hatch?

Is it a house finch or a purple finch? Here’s how to tell.

On Sunday, I raised up on my tiptoes and carefully peered inside the basket, making sure not to touch or disturb anything. Sure enough, there are 5 tiny speckled eggs in the center of a very carefully constructed domicile. The petunias provided just the right amount of flora so as to be inconspicuous.

At first, I couldn’t help but think this was an awkward spot to build a nest. I have two cats who frequently perch on the windowsill, and when I use my keys in the lock, I’m inches from the basket.

But I realize now the choice was not random—she selected this spot quite on purpose. The basket is protected from the wind and weather by the overhanging porch roofing; no squirrels or other predators would have the acrobatics to reach those fragile eggs, which she now sits on daily. Apparently, house finches frequently build their nests in porch overhangs, light fixtures, and hanging baskets for this very reason.

House Finch History

house finches on a branch

The story of the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is an interesting one. They’re a relatively new songbird to eastern North America. In 1940 caged bird dealers in New York City sold house finches (dubbed “Hollywood finches”) to people who wanted to bring their cheery, melodic song indoors.

Pet stores in the east were importing this bird from its native southwest and the demand was high. But a concerned citizen informed the federal government, and sales were abolished, causing pet shop owners and dealers to release the birds into the wild to avoid persecution. The birds survived and adapted, and now they can be found throughout the country.

In about two weeks, I expect to hear the tiny chirps of my new porch mates, which I very much look forward to. I also hope to watch their first flight some weeks after that.

Have you seen any nests where you live? Share your story in the comments below.

This article was published by the staff at Farmers' Almanac. Do you have a question or an idea for an article? Contact us!

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Purple rayne

I have a finch bird nest on my front door wreath. When I noticed it, it was already built and almost to perfection. I’m the past two years, they had tried to build it in my wreath before but I had always knocked it down, this time I was too late and also figured just let nature take its course. The eggs hatched and there are 5 baby birds. It’s amazing to see how the grow, how the mother and father take turns feeding them. My kids are very excited to see this blessing at its best.

Tina

I have house finches eggs in a decorative wreath on my front door.

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Tina

I have a nest of house finches in a decorative wreath on my front door

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Jeannie

We are experiencing a pair of house finches that took over last year’s barn swallow nest under our deck which is a roof for patio. I didn’t know they would do that. We limit our time there as the mother flys away each time we go out. Unfortunately, it is our only outlet for our dog to access the yard, so we go out several times a day. The swallows last year weren’t disturbed by our presence, but these cuties are.
Looking forward to seeing the babies at some point.

Tina

House finches

Michael

My experience was actually with a few old crows. We had fruit trees and a garden that the crows kept cleaning us out of. My wife decided that she was going to start talking to them. She got a big tub and would take various food scraps and set them out and would instruct them to eat from the tub and not the trees and garden. Before long she had trained to not only leave the garden alone but, they would even chase the ground hogs out of there as well.
Then one day I had an accident out in the garden and I couldn’t get no one’s attention. Here came the crows. One next time on the ground, one next to the fence and another went to the window of the house and got my wife.
I don’t know if it’s the same crows but for 20 years we have been sharing a garden with these crows that eat ONLY what my wife fixes them.

April

I always have ferns on my front porch towards the beginning/middle of spring. For the last several years, I have had house finches build a nest in one of them. Last year, I bought new ferns but was trying to wait until I was sure it wasn’t going to frost anymore before I set them out. I started noticing 2 little finches flying in and sitting on the hook for a few minutes and then fly away. They did this several days in a row. They were patiently waiting for me to hang the ferns out! I went ahead and hung them out that day and they started their nest! I wintered my ferns in the garage this year and hung them out about a month ago. They came right back and began to make another nest in the same fern! There are 5 or 6 babies in there growing fast! I can watch them from my living room window! So neat that they come back every year! Little trick that I started doing since the first time I had nests in my ferns…. I went to home depot and bought some plastic baskets that attach to the hanging baskets that are for watering your plants from the bottom. This keeps you from having to pour water directly into the plant!

Dee

I nave a pair of Finches under my portico; they built their nest; both mama and papa participating, and now they have 4 babies. I can watch them feed the babies from inside the house. How clever and smart to nest there. Nothing can get to them (hopefully). Love it! This is in Redding, California, BTW…

Ann

I have a house finch nest on my porch, they came to the same spot last year and it was amazing to watch the momma, papa interact with the babies until one day they grew up and left the nest. This year I watched momma sit constantly. Pop came and looked like he was feeding momma one morning and then nothing? It’s been about a week that I’ve seen anyone at the nest and it looks like there is something furry in there. I’m not sure what to do? Any suggestions?

Last edited 3 months ago by Ann
Autumn Davidson

House finches in hanging plants!

Kenneth Hilts

Wow.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kenneth Hilts
Megan

We have a house finch nest as well in our hanging fern on the front porch. As soon as we realized we had a mama bird, our family has also taken steps to move more slowly and quietly when going in and out. It’s been an amazing experience for us all. I feel very blessed she chose our house. As of yesterday morning, two babies have hatched and the dad has been very vigilantly taking care of his mate while she nurtures the babies.

Susan Higgins

Oh wonderful! Nature is so amazing! It’s a great teaching tool for the kids.

Betty Devecka

Hello, we have a nest on our front door wreath, its on the top of the wreath so I don’t want to use the front door so that I don’t spook the mamma or shake the eggs out. My question is how long before they hatch and leave the nest. Its a house finch I believe. Thank you

Julie Shoup

The other day I had taken down my hanging ferns from the front porch and was watering one (quite a bit until I noticed nest) and looked down and saw the most precious site!! In the middle of my fern was a small nest with five light blue eggs. I was so concerned I had disturbed the nest too much by taking down the fern and watering it, then placing it back up on hook after, that the mother/father might abandon the nest. I have tried to keep a constant watch for activity from adult birds towards the nest and I’m pretty sure I saw what looked like a house finch flying away when I was walking up on my porch today. I’m so hopeful that was mommy and she hasn’t abandoned her eggs/nest. I had a house finch nest out back once that I thoroughly enjoyed watching and even saw one of the babies fledge. Unfortunately, one of those babies fell out of the nest and died which was so heartbreaking!! My concern is this, the house finch nest that was outback only had 3 eggs/hatchlings and I’m afraid the one was pushed out when it got too crowded in the nest maybe? This new nest has 5 eggs but is in a safer location so hopefully I won’t have to witness that again.

I’ve attached a picture of the nest/eggs. Does this look like house finch eggs? The other nest I had was too high up and I never got to see the eggs so I don’t know what house finch eggs look like.

Thanks!

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Jill

I have a nest in my wreath. The eggs just hatched. I often see the male visiting.

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Chel

Hi! I have a nest in my hanging fern on front porch with eggs, today is very windy, I tied the hook with some twine to secure it. I have hooks inside the porch about a foot away, can I move it temporarily or will she abandon it?

chessielass

This is a screenshot from the little video I took today.

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Susan Higgins

Oh my!!!!!! So adorable! This is so wonderful, thank you for sharing, chessielass!

chessielass

This was the nest on April 12th. Today I peeked and they have hatched! 🙂

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Karola C Dibella

For the sixth time in the 15 years I have lived here finches built a nest in one of the wreaths on the front porch. Every time it has had several eggs in it and we have been careful to disturb them as little as possible by using the front door. Every time I find the eggs broken on the ground after a couple of weeks, not a single success. I am so upset ! This morning one egg lay broken on the porch right below the nest. One of the finches was still flying in and out. When I came back several hours later the remaining eggs were broken below the nest as well. The way the nest was positioned I have a hard time to picture some critter getting to it, unless it is another bird? Any thoughts what might be going on?

Paula Daniel

I am pretty sure that is what I have nesting in my wreath on my front door. They are the cutest. Waiting on the last egg to hatch!

Kelly

Look what I discovered today. They’ve become regulars and now we know why. (Right in the corner, tucked away)

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Kelly

Here are the happy parents. How long after the eggs have hatched is it safe to remove the nest/ garland?

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Susan Higgins

Kelly, great picture! Once it’s clear that the nest has been vacated, you can remove the nest.

Lora Aurise

HELP! House finches have built a nest in my front door Spring wreath and I’m constantly chasing this wreath down the street because it blows off my door. I always bring the wreath inside on windy nights so I don’t lose it. There is one egg in the nest right now. Do I tape the wreath to the door? I’d hate to have her eggs blow away 🙁 Any thoughts would be helpful!

Susan Higgins

Hi Lora, oh wow! These birds certainly like to set up house in inconvenient spots. I found some good information that you might find helpful. Check it out here. Good luck!

Deborah M

It was not a house finch, but my mother had a Robin build a nest on top of one of her Christmas wreaths she had hanging on her garage.
We had to wait until the chicks fledged, it was fun watching the four healthy chicks leave the nest.

Donyna Johnson

We have a nest in our Boston fern with 6 little eggs. I am being extremely careful about watering the plant as to not get either the nest or eggs wet. And I only water every other evening I love watching the little parents they take turns sitting on the flag pole to watch. They are the sweetest kindest little birds and I am excited to watch the babies hatch. We had Cardinals outside our dining room window last year and the grandgirls really loved watching and learning all about the process it was such a great experience for all of us.

Terri

In Denver I left a fake pine from the Christmas holidays in an iron hanging basked over the railing of my covered front porch with a straw liner. Before I could get it out in April I saw two finches busy building a nest inside the hollow straw basket below the heavy fake pine insert . I had a finch sock feeder in that area also. I decided to let them go ahead to make it, and that was April 10th. It’s now May 7th and they are still in there. A few days ago it was very windy and the hanging basket was blowing all over so I secured it to the porch railing with a dog leash. Today it was more windy so I had to use another leash to keep it from blowing sideways. I was afraid the eggs or birds would end up being dumped out in a strong gust of wind. Hoping they survived the wind tonight and I get to see the babies fly out soon!

Susan Higgins

Your kindness is wonderful.

Scott Young

Our front porch has two wide columns at each end holding up the roof. Our front door is near one, and our chairs are near the other. There is a decent-sized flat place on top of each column.
Last Spring a pair of Robins built a nest on top of the one by the door. Surprisingly, they didn’t make any sort of mess and raised 4 little ones.
I was fortunate enough to be standing on near the nest when they fledged! They flew right at me, one after the other.
Another Robin tried to make a nest later in the season on the column near our chairs… it didn’t go well. He/she made a huge mess and the nest never came together.
To keep the tenacious bird from continuing, we put a water bottle on top of that column. It worked. No more robin mess.
This spring, however, a pair of House Finches started visiting the column. After a couple weeks of house shopping, they built a nest in the tiny space behind the water bottle and laid a handful of speckled eggs.
The male spends a lot of time perched on the water bottle while the female tends the nest.
Can’t wait to see the little fluff balls!

Laura

A pair of finches made a nest in the little over hang on my back porch they are definitely not shy about letting you know your to close to there home I’ll usually sit out on my porch in the morning or in the evening and in the beginning if there trying to get in there nest and I was to close they’ll land on the railing and swak at me a few times until I sat down it’s been a few months now I think they’ve gotten used to me because they swak at me anymore they just fly around me to do there business they will land on the porch now when I’m out there somtimes and just kind of hang out it’s wild I also just noticed a pair of blue Jays building a nest in the Holly tree by the back porch this morning!!!

cindy

just discovered a nest that I think may be house finch in a variegated bush that I was about to trim. There are three bluish eggs with spots on them from what I could tell. No bird was near when I looked….not touched!! I definitely want nest and birds to stay so I hope I didn’t scare it away.

Janie

I have a tiny nest in my wreath on my front porch. I haven’t seen mom in a few days. I hope she is coming and going when I am not
aware and nothing is wrong!

Susan Higgins

Hi Janie, this is what happened to me. There was too much activity for her, and unfortunately, the mother abandoned the nest.

Elana Rita

I hope that does not happen to me. I have a couple of plants on my porch. They’re nesting on a wreath above the front window. I took photo above nest. There are 6 eggs. Am going to try to stay off the porch as much as possible, but we need to use front door.

Roxann Stevenson

I went to remove a Christmas swag a foot from our front door, (a few months late) but stopped when I noticed there was a nest with 5 eggs. Now 5 tiny fuzzies!

Kelly Enright

We currently (5/4/19 – Ringwood, NJ)have a nest in our evergreen wreath hung next to our front door, under the roof overhang. 5 tiny blue eggs and a mother and father have been photographed!
Just identified them as house finches today!
Can’t wait for babies to hatch!

Susan Higgins

Wonderful! Let us know. Unfortunately, my story didn’t turn out too well. With all the opening and closing of the front door, the mother finch got spooked and abandoned the nest.

Rose in Huntsville, Texas

We have a swallow family in the corner of our porch. Despite the “poo” issue, it has been a real life drama. Of 4 babies, 2 either fell to their death or were pushed out. Today, 6/11/17, one is still in the nest. I presume the other one is out being taught how to fly and hunt for bugs. It is humbling to watch them.

Susan Higgins

Thank you Rose, for sharing!

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