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Key Information

Scientific Name: Fringilla coelebs

Bird Family: Finches

Population: 6,000,000 breeding pairs

UK Conservation Status: Green

The UK Chaffinch is a delightful and colourful bird that adds beauty and song to the British countryside. Their striking plumage, vibrant songs, and adaptability make them one of the most common and well-loved bird species in the United Kingdom. By providing suitable nesting sites and food sources, such as bird feeders with seeds and nuts, we can continue to encourage the presence of Chaffinches in our gardens and parks. Their enchanting melodies and charming antics are sure to captivate birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts for generations to come.

What does a chaffinch look like?

The Chaffinch is a small to medium-sized bird, measuring around 14 to 16cm in and with a wingspan of approximately 24 to 28cm. Male Chaffinches exhibit striking and colourful plumage. During the breeding season, they have a pinkish-red breast and cheeks, a slate-blue cap, with a greenish-grey back. The wings display a white wing-bar, and the tail is black with white outer feathers. Females, on the other hand, have more subdued colours, with a brownish-grey plumage and less vibrant markings. They both possess a short and sturdy bill, well-suited for cracking open seeds and nuts.

What do chaffinches eat?

Chaffinch's diet primarily consists of various seeds, nuts and grains, making them frequent visitors to bird feeders and bird tables that offer these food sources. Some of their favourite foods include Sunflower Hearts, Sunflower Seeds, and Peanuts Granules. During the breeding season, they also consume insects and caterpillars to provide essential protein for their growing chicks.  Below are some recommendations on what to feed chaffinches in the garden.

Are chaffinches ground feeders?

Though chaffinches are more than comfortable to eat from bird feeders with large perches, they do exhibit some ground-feeding behaviour, especially during the winter months when food might be scarce in trees and shrubs. They’ll come down to the ground to forage for fallen seeds or to feed on spilled food from bird feeders. Which is why it’s always good to have a full ground feeder in the garden, to make foraging for food a little easier for them.

Where do chaffinches nest?

Chaffinches typically build their nests in trees or shrubs, often choosing well-concealed and sheltered locations such as forks of trees, hedgerows, and edges of agricultural fields. It's worth noting that while the female chaffinch is primarily responsible for building the nest, both the male and female may be involved in selecting the location. The nest is constructed into a cup-shape using natural materials such as twigs, grass, and moss and lined with softer materials like feathers.

When do chaffinches nest?

The Chaffinch breeds from spring to early summer, with nesting activities typically taking place between April and June. The female lays a clutch of 4 to 5 pale blue eggs with brown speckles. She incubates the eggs for about 12 to 14 days before they hatch. Both parents take turns feeding the chicks, and the young Chaffinches fledge after about 13 to 16 days.

Do chaffinches migrate?

Chaffinches exhibit partial migration, which means that while some individuals migrate, others remain in the UK throughout the year. A significant portion of the chaffinch population in the UK is considered resident. These birds do not undertake long-distance migrations and stay throughout the year. However, chaffinches in the colder regions, especially Scotland and northern England, will migrate south to find more favourable conditions. These migratory individuals may travel to southern parts of the UK or continental Europe. It's important to note that the degree of migration can vary depending on factors like local climate, habitat availability, and food resources.

Are chaffinches rare in the UK?

No, chaffinches are not considered rare in the UK. In fact, they are one of the most common and widespread bird species found in the country. Chaffinches are present throughout the year in various habitats, including woodlands, parks, gardens, and farmlands. They are known for their distinctive songs and colourful plumage, which makes them easily recognizable and a familiar sight to many people in the UK.

What does a chaffinch sound like?

The usual melody of the male chaffinch is characterised by a cascading sequence of melodic tones, trailed by a hastened ending. These vibrant songs are commonly reiterated from a conspicuous spot within a tree. Each male has its own unique song, which it uses to establish territories and attract mates during the breeding season. The gentler 'subsong' is produced by both male and female birds and is generally detected when the birds are on the ground or concealed within thick vegetation.

What is the difference between a goldfinch and a chaffinch?

Goldfinches and chaffinches are both small passerine birds from the same family, but they have several distinct differences, the main being physical appearance. Goldfinches are known for their vibrant plumage. They have a distinctive red face, a black cap, and white cheeks. Their bodies have a combination of black, white, and gold markings. Whereas chaffinches have a more subdued blue-grey crown and pinkish-brown breast.