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Key Information

Scientific Name: Fringilla montifringilla

Bird Family: Finches

UK Wintering: 45,000-1,800,000 birds

UK Conservation Status: Green

The brambling is a migratory bird species belonging to the finch family. It is native to northern Eurasia and is a winter visitor to the United Kingdom. They have a compact and robust build with a slightly rounded body shape. Bramblings are agile birds, known for their hopping and scratching behaviour as they forage for food on the ground.

What do bramblings look like?

Bramblings are approximately 14 cm in length and have a wingspan of 25 to 26 cm, making them slightly smaller than a house sparrow. They have short, conical bills that are well-suited for cracking open seeds.

Brambling Breeding Plumage:

·       Male: During the breeding season, males have a striking black head, which contrasts sharply with their white belly. Their breast is a vibrant orange with distinctive black streaks. The wings are mostly black with white wing-bars. This striking combination of colours makes the male brambling easily identifiable.

·       Female: Female bramblings have a more subdued appearance. They lack the black head and instead have a brownish plumage overall. Their breasts are a paler orange-brown with less distinct streaking.

Non-Breeding Plumage: Outside of the breeding season (winter), both males and females adopt a more uniform brownish plumage, which helps them blend into their winter surroundings. The distinct black head of the male is replaced by a more muted brown.

What do bramblings eat?

During the breeding season, bramblings primarily consume a diet rich in insects, caterpillars, and spiders. This protein-rich diet provides essential nutrients for their growth and the development of their offspring.

As the seasons transition and winter sets in and they migrate to the UK, bramblings undergo a dietary shift to accommodate the scarcity of insects. During this period, their primary food source becomes seeds and nuts. 

What to feed bramblings?

As bramblings spend the majority of their time in the UK during winter, it's essential to put out high-energy food to meet their dietary needs. Below are some suggested bird foods to entice migrating bramblings to your garden during winter.

Bird feeders for bramblings

Bramblings are primarily ground-feeding birds, which means they mainly forage for food on the ground. Like it's finch relatives that they tend to flock with in winter, you may also find bramblings on bird feeders with perchers or large platforms. Below is a selection of ideal feeders for brambling birds.

Brambling nesting behaviour

Brambling nesting season occurs in Northern Europe and Scandinavia during spring and summer. They begin their search for nesting sites in April, usually choosing coniferous forests, particularly in areas with dense undergrowth.

The female brambling is primarily responsible for constructing the nest. She weaves together a cup-shaped nest using a variety of materials. Common nesting materials include twigs, grasses, moss, and other plant fibres. The nest is usually situated on a horizontal branch of a conifer tree, often well-concealed amidst the foliage. The dense vegetation provides both protection and camouflage for the nest.

Once the nest is made, the brambling female will lay around from 4 to 7 eggs, and spend 12-14 days incubating the eggs until they are ready to hatch. After the eggs hatch, the chicks remain in the nest for around 2 weeks before fledging. Both parents take turns feeding and caring for the young during this time.

Is a brambling a finch?

Yes, a brambling is indeed a member of the finch family. This family includes various species of small to medium-sized passerine birds known for their stout beaks, which are well-adapted for cracking open seeds. Bramblings are part of this diverse group of birds that are often characterised by their colourful plumage and distinctive feeding habits.

Are brambling birds rare?

Bramblings are not considered rare in the UK, but their population dynamics can vary from year to year. They are classified as a migratory bird species, and their presence in the UK is seasonal, with the majority of bramblings arriving in the winter months.