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You Are What You Eat

Good nutrition is important to birds, too!

House Finches are familiar birds all across North America. Researchers have shown that the red coloration of males is produced from carotenoid pigments in the birds' diet. Male House Finches develop brighter plumage when they are growing in new feathers, if they eat more fruits containing carotenoids. Females prefer more brightly colored males. Redder males also attract females in better condition, and such a pair raises, on the average, more young. You can learn more at AAAS.org.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
The House Finch - You Are What You Eat
Written by Dennis Paulson

This is BirdNote!


[House Finch calls]


Have you noticed those little brown birds with red breasts at your birdfeeders? Those are House Finches, familiar birds all across North America. [House Finch calls]

The female House Finch is brown and streaked; the male similar but with bright red patches on its head, breast, and rump. Researchers have shown that the red coloration of males is produced from carotenoid (pronounced cuh-RAHT-un-oid) pigments contained in the birds’ diet. Carotenoids are the same pigments that give oranges and carrots their color, the pigments that make goldfinches yellow and flamingos pink. We also know that male House Finches develop brighter plumage when they’re growing in new feathers, if they eat more fruits containing carotenoids. So well fed means bright red. [House Finch song]

When a male House Finch sings to attract a female, he is better off being well fed, because females prefer more brightly colored males. Redder males also attract females in better condition, and such a pair raises, on the average, more young. The message is clear: in the world of House Finches, the way to romance and a family begins with a good diet! [House Finch calls]

The bird sounds for BirdNote are from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler composed and played the theme music. Begin at our website, BirdNote.org. I’m Michael Stein.

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Call and song of the House Finch provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Recorded by G.A. Keller.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org            February 2013/2016 Narrator: Michael Stein

ID# 020707HOFI2       HOFI-02b

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