The House Finches

Here’s Day 9 in my series of essays. It’s a bit long, but I admit that I was having lots of fun with this one.

9. Animals: Choose an animal. Write about it!

It was the perfect spot for a nest. Or, at least he had thought so at first.

It is just so hard to tell when you start building your nest in the chilly days before spring really starts! There’s no telling what will come out of the woodwork—or out the patio door—when things warm up.

The Courtship

Mr. and Mrs. House Finch had only married the previous winter. It had been a quiet ceremony, attended by just a few close friends they’d gotten to know around the local feeders. He had been surprised she’d accepted his marriage proposal in the first place. He was barely fully grown, and the feathers around his head had only just turned to a blush red. She’d been courted by an older male with a beautiful scarlet head, but something had attracted her to her young mate.

He considered himself a good provider, and had been rather proud of the choice morsels he had presented her during their courtship. She’d been impressed with the variety of seeds he had brought, but he suspected that the dandelion seeds had been what sealed the deal; she was terribly partial to them.

A Doomed Honeymoon

Their first spring had been a disaster. Young and inexperienced as they were, they’d chosen the worst possible spot for their nest. A little nook in the side of a building had seemed perfect in the cold dark days, when they were scouting out locations. It had been sheltered and snug, and without hesitating they swooped in to claim it before another couple could.

It wasn’t until the first fine spring day that they realized their error. They’d just returned home for a mid-morning nap when without warning the nest began to shake and tremble. A horrible loud rumbling filled the air, and before they knew it their home was being dragged into the gears of an automatic garage door. They barely escaped with their lives, and watched in despair from a nearby tree as a shiny red vintage convertible Maserati pulled out of the garage and drove off on its first spin of the season.

The worst of it was, she’d been about to lay her first clutch of eggs. In their confusion after losing their nest, she ended up laying them in a field where a hungry fox quickly discovered them.

A Second Attempt

This year, though, they had to get it right. And as the prime nest location scout, the pressure was on him to come through.

He chose a sheltered spot, on a lovely horizontal beam, tucked right up under a nice terrace. He’d watched the house for a few days and had seen no movement at the door that led out to the garden. A day or two more of watching confirmed it. The lazy humans living in the house never once set foot outside. He told the Missus, and they swooped in to claim their spot.

And it was indeed perfect. They were sheltered from wind and rain, and the nest she built while he kept watch was flawless. And so, they settled down and set about the business of starting a family.


She was two days shy of laying her first egg when the worst happened.

The back door slid open.

Their peace was shattered by the piercing voices of two child humans and an adult, presumably the female of the household. Mr. and Mrs. House Finch huddled in terror in their nest while the trio burst into the garden and tumbled about the lawn. Once the first shock had passed, they gathered their wits enough to fly out of the nest and alight on a nearby tree.

As they watched, he felt his mate’s accusing stare. He had failed her last season. Had he failed her again this year? They stayed away until the humans had gone back inside and shut the door. They waited several minutes after they heard the door latch before returning to the nest.

The Trampoline

A few days passed. They became cautiously optimistic that the humans’ natural predisposition to laziness had prevailed, and they had lost interest in the garden. But then, it happened.

One bright morning, the door opened again. Out stepped the male of the family, followed by the two clamoring juveniles. By this time, the House Finches had three eggs in the nest, and the Missus wouldn’t leave them. Mr. House Finch flitted from the nest to a nearby electrical wire, where he puffed up his chest as menacingly as he could and chirruped his loudest at them. To his utter humiliation, this drew only cries of delight from the humans! He flew to the neighboring fence, and watched them anxiously, ready to dive at them should they get too near his wife and nest.

As he watched from his perch, his sense of foreboding increased. The male human was opening boxes and laying out pieces of some great structure. Over the next couple of days (what he heard them refer to as “the weekend”) his worst fears were confirmed. They were setting up, of all things, a trampoline.

There’d be no peace now! Not from the humans, and certainly not from the Missus. From the moment of its completion, hardly a day passed that they weren’t surprised from their afternoon nap by the sound of the sliding door and the children tumbling outside to “bounce.” The stress of it caused them to lose their first clutch. Only one of the five eggs hatched, and the hatchling was weak and puny. It didn’t survive.

“She’s bound to leave me now,” he thought. But there, as so many husbands do, he underestimated his wife’s fortitude. Though the initial shock had thrown her, she did not give up that easily. She knew she had a good two or even three more clutches in her that season. And she, too, had been watching the humans.

What the Missus Observed

Whenever they came out, they stayed away from the nest, as if they wanted to avoid disturbing the birds. Her instincts told her that these humans meant them no harm. Though the noise was nearly unbearable, Mrs. House Finch steeled her nerves and prepared to lay her second clutch. She soon became inured to the startling sound of the sliding door, and she found she was able to sit on her eggs in relative composure. She even came to enjoy watching the children’s delight on the trampoline. She pictured how her own chicks would soon be very much like the two human children. She was at peace.

Then, one fine morning, the eggs hatched. Despite the noise, the disturbance and the stress, they were finally parents. Mr. House Finch came through on his courtship promise and delivered only the choicest dandelion seeds to his wife and chicks. The family of humans seemed to know something had happened, and they gave the nest an even wider berth.

Mr. House Finch’s Song

The couple felt happy. So happy that one day, as the human family sat atop their terrace for their evening meal, Mr. House Finch flew up and landed above them on the roof. He fluffed his feathers and cleared his throat. He gave a tremendous PEEP in order to ensure he had their attention. When all four pairs of human eyes were turned up and fixed on him, he opened his mouth and sang his sweetest song. A song of gratitude.

Thanks for sharing your space! Thanks for letting us be! Thanks for being good neighbors! Thanks for saving our marriage!