To view a humble House Finch, foraging at one’s feeder or singing sweetly atop a telephone pole, is to witness the American dream come true. Originally native to Mexico and the southwestern United States, the story of how the House Finch came to be the ubiquitous bird it is today is a rags-to-riches tale that would make Horatio Alger proud. Like so many American stories, it begins in New York City at the turn of the century, where birds poached from Mexico and the Southwest were sold at pet stores as “Hollywood Finches.” With the passage in 1918 of the Migratory Birds Act, sale of the House Finch was banned, and shop owners released their stock en masse to avoid prosecution. Initially confined to urban areas in the Northeast, these adaptable birds, like so many immigrants before them, forged westward. By the turn of the 21st century their western expansion finally reached their original range, and these birds are now common from sea to shining sea. Is it any wonder they sing so proudly?
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