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Hawfinch Invasion Hits Britain

The UK's largest finch, the hawfinch has a massive, powerful bill. Shy and so infrequently seen, the hawfinch has become an even rarer sight in recent years. Numbers have proved difficult to determine, however, as hawfinches generally keep themselves to themselves.

Finches Usually Restricted to England

Hawfinches have been mostly restricted to England in the UK, and have declined in many areas. There are thought to be a few as 1,000 breeding pairs remaining in the country. The region adjacent to the Welsh border, the Home Counties and the south-east from Hampshire to Kent have been the most likely places to see them – until now!

Winter Travellers

Although numbers have declined in the UK, Hawfinches have continued to travel to the UK from Europe during the winter months. This year, many more hawfinches than usual have been arriving.

The number of these birds which have been spotted has been twelve times higher than usual. In Wales, BirdTrack, the online recording scheme, shows they are being recorded at 20 times their usual rate. There have been a surprising number of sightings in the north of England and the birds are now heading as far north as Scotland .

There have already been sightings in Glasgow, Stirling and the Lothians.

Scandinavian Visitors

The rings of some of the birds arriving in the UK have been checked and it would appear that they have travelled here from Norway.

Researching the Hawfinch

Scientists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) are studying the reasons why Hawfinches do not nest as widely in the UK as they used to. The researchers believe that food availability may be an issue and are working in collaboration with Cardiff University to learn more.

How to Spot a Hawfinch

Hawfinches are attractive birds with feathers in autumn shades. They have a chestnut head, rose-pink breast and black and white wing markings. These birds are unmistakable but usually difficult to spot due to their shy natures. However, this year is presenting much better opportunities to see Hawfinches.

If you would like to spot a hawfinch, head for woodlands, any areas of mature trees, churchyards and botanical gardens which are the most likely areas to find the birds. They may also visit domestic gardens and are fond of sunflower seeds. It could be a good time to restock your feeders!

Have you seen a hawfinch this year? If so, where did you spot the bird?


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