One of the UK’s most common birds, the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) boasts beautiful plumage. Males are particularly striking with their blue-grey caps, pink cheeks and pink breast together with their reddish-brown mantle. Females and juveniles are much duller and have grey-brown upper-parts and dull greyish-white underparts. All chaffinches have distinct wing bars. When these birds fly, a flash of white on their wings and their white outer tail feathers are revealed.
Chaffinches can be seen in woodlands, hedgerows, fields, parks and gardens. Their natural habitat is deciduous woodland, but they have proved to be adaptable. They are similar in size to sparrows and are around 16cm in length with wingspans of 24 – 26cm.
What is the Chaffinch’s distribution and population?
Chaffinches can be seen throughout the UK, except for in the Scottish islands. Our native birds are generally sedentary but chaffinches from Scandinavia and Finland migrate to the UK in the autumn. In some years, the migrant birds can double the UK population.
The number of chaffinches in the UK increased significantly after 1970 but since 1995, there have been periods of decline. Chaffinches were hit by an outbreak of finch trichomonosis in 2006. Numbers then increased again before a further decline between 2013 and 2014. This may also have been due to finch trichomonosis. There are currently 6,200,000 breeding pairs in this country.
What do Chaffinches eat?
Insects and seeds make up the Chaffinch’s natural diet. These birds won’t usually visit feeders but will take food from beneath bird tables. To attract them to your garden, provide mixed seed or sunflower seed in shallow trays and close to cover.
Where do Chaffinches nest?
Breeding from April to June, Chaffinches build nests from spiders’ webs, moss and grass before lining them with feathers. The nests are round and are positioned in trees, hedges and bushes. Eggs are incubated for up to 16 days and chicks being to fledge after 13 days. Chaffinches were once known as bachelor birds. This was because in colder, northern regions, males would winter close to their nesting sites while females migrated south.
Did you know?
Chaffinches have been found to have regional accents, exhibiting small differences in their song depending on where in the country the bird lives.
A singing male chaffinch will deliver his song five or six times a minute, and up to 3,000 times a day.