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Bullfinch

Key Information

Scientific Name: Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Bird Family: Finches

UK Breeding Birds: 190,000

UK Conservation Status: Amber

The bullfinch stands as a jewel among the avian treasures of the United Kingdom. With its vibrant plumage and distinctive call, this species has captured the fascination of bird enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

What does a bullfinch look like?

Bullfinches have a robust and stocky build, which contributes to their plump appearance. They grow to a length of around 14-16 cm and a 22-29 cm wingspan. Bullfinches possess a short, thick bill, well-suited for cracking seeds and extracting them from protective casings. There is a distinct difference in plumage colouration between the male and female bullfinch.  

Male bullfinch:

The most striking feature of the male bullfinch is its vibrant rose-red breast, extending from the throat down to the belly. It sports a distinctive black cap on its head, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding plumage. The back and wings of the male are a muted slate-grey colour, providing a subtle contrast to the bright breast. In flight, a noticeable white rump becomes visible, distinguishing the bullfinch from other birds.

Female bullfinch:

The female's breast is a softer, greyish-pink hue, lacking the vivid red of the male. While she still possesses a cap, it is less prominent than the male's, often appearing more brownish-black. Like the male, the female has a slate-grey back and wings. Similar to the male, a white rump is visible during flight. 

These distinct features, particularly the vibrant red of the male, make bullfinches readily identifiable, even from a distance.

What do bullfinches eat?

Bullfinches are granivores, meaning seeds form a significant part of their diet. They have a particular fondness for the seeds of various plants, including sunflower hearts, sunflower seeds, niger seeds, millet seeds, and more. Their specialised bills allow them to extract seeds from their protective casings with great precision.

While not a primary part of their diet, bullfinches may supplement their nutrition with insects, especially during the nesting season. Insects provide a protein-rich food source that can be crucial for the growth of chicks.

What should I feed bullfinches?

If you're interested in attracting bullfinches to your garden or providing food for them, you can offer a variety of seeds. Here are some suitable options:

Where do bullfinches nest?

Bullfinches are known for their secretive nesting habits and choose their nesting sites carefully. They often select dense shrubs and hedges as nesting sites. The thick vegetation provides a natural shelter and helps conceal the nest from predators. Bullfinches also build their nests along the edges of woodlands, with a mix of trees, shrubs, and understory vegetation.

Do bullfinches use nest boxes?

No, bullfinches are not known to use nest boxes. While they may occasionally investigate bird boxes, they are generally not considered reliable occupants of artificial nesting sites. Bullfinches have specific nesting preferences that often lead them to choose natural sites like dense shrubs, hedges, and woodland edges. These locations provide the thick cover and protection that bullfinches seek for their nests. If you are interested in providing habitat for bullfinches, focusing on maintaining or enhancing natural areas with suitable vegetation and cover is more effective.

When do bullfinches nest?

Breeding typically occurs between April and July. In Late April to Early May, bullfinches begin to search for suitable nesting sites, and pairs form strong bonds in preparation for breeding. Between May and June, the nest construction begins. The female bullfinch is primarily responsible for building the nest, which is typically cup-shaped and constructed from twigs, moss, and other plant materials. She will then be ready to lay eggs. 

How many eggs do bullfinches have?

The clutch size ranges from 3 to 7 eggs, with an average of 4. The female is the primary incubator, caring for the eggs for around two weeks. After this time, the eggs hatch and the chicks emerge. Both parents take on the responsibility of feeding and caring for the young. It will take a further 12 to 16 days until the bullfinches are ready to fledge. 

Are bullfinches rare?

Bullfinches are not considered rare in the UK. With a population size of 190,000 breeding pairs, this eye-catching bird can be seen throughout the UK. Though bullfinches are shy and hard to spot, they hide in the thickness of branches. You’ll have the best chance of seeing them in wooded landscapes as they prefer these environments to open country with few trees.