The brightly colored male House Finch has a whole sunflower seed in his mouth. He will use his tongue to position the seed so it conforms to the shape of his beaks. Then, using his tongue to rotate the seed, the sharp sides of his mandibles will peel off the waxy covering which protects the seed.
The female House Finch (lower left) is further along in removing the covering from the seed in her mouth. Notice the ribbon of chaff hanging from her beaks. Once the seeds are peeled, the finches will chew and swallow the seed. When the seeds are partially digested and the consistency of thick cream, the hungry chick will tilt its head back with mouth opened; and the parents will take turns putting their beaks deep into the chick's mouth and regurgitate the food which flows down the chick's throat.
The chick in this picture is very healthy. We know this because of the horn-like head feathers. When a young chick does not have these head feathers, the parents know the chick is not healthy and reject the chick which, owing to lack of food and love, fades away in short order.
During the Spring and Summer breeding season, it is common to see the male show his love for his spouse by feeding her as though she is a chick. The female will, during such feedings, flap her wings and take on the manners of a chick being fed. This illustration was first published February 21, 2006 by City Birds.
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