Chunky in appearance, the greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) is a relatively common site in the UK. Male greenfinches are mostly olive-green in colour but have yellow patches on their wings and tails which are more obvious when the birds are in flight. Females are grey-green with less yellow. These birds boast distinctive forked tails together with a twittering song which sounds a little like wheezing. They have strong bills that are ideal for taking seeds. You will find greenfinches in woodland, hedgerows, parks, orchards, and gardens.
What is the greenfinch’s distribution and population?
Greenfinches are present throughout the UK and are absent only from barren upland areas. The UK population declined considerably in the 1970s and 1980s before experiencing an impressive recovery in the 1990s. It is thought that the decline in numbers was caused by a decrease in seed availability around farmland. When more and more gardens began to feature bird feeders, greenfinches were able to prosper once more.
Unfortunately, the greenfinch population fell by as much as 20% between 2005 and 2006. This was due to the emergence of a disease called trichomonosis, which is spread by parasites and prevents birds from feeding. The disease can still be an issue and continues to impact greenfinch numbers. It is, therefore, important to keep garden feeders and bird tables clean as this helps to prevent the spread of trichomonosis.
Most British greenfinches are resident all year round. They are joined in winter by migrants from Scandinavia. There are 1,600,000 breeding pairs in the UK and the species is not of conservation concern.
What do greenfinches eat?
Greenfinches have a relatively varied diet. Their large beaks enable them to take a wide variety of seeds. These birds have adapted well to taking peanuts from garden feeders and more recently, have tended to dominate any feeders containing black sunflower seed and sunflower hearts.
Where do greenfinches nest?
Greenfinches tend to nest in loose colonies of four to six nests. Their favoured nesting sites are evergreen shrubs. Nests are built with twigs, moss and grass, and then lined with roots and hair. The female lays 3-8 eggs which are incubated for 12-14 days. Chicks fledge after 14-18 days.
Did you know?
Migrants to Australia and New Zealand took greenfinches with them to remind them of home.
Greenfinches were trapped during Victorian times for the cage-bird trade. However, they were never as popular as goldfinches.