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Chaffinch

Common Chaffinch Male Chaffinch Male
Pink underparts, grey crown, and two white wing bars.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Fringilla coelebs
Length: 14.5 cm (6")
Wing Span: 24.5-28.5 cm (10-11½")
Weight: 18-29 g (¾-1 oz) Female Chaffinch Female
Olive-brown upperparts with pale underparts.
Breeding Pairs: 5 400 000
Present: All Year
Status: Green
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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Description

The Chaffinch is our commonest finch and has striking double white wing bars. The wing bars are formed by white patches on the wing coverts, and primary and secondary wing feathers. Its summer plumage is brighter that its winter plumage.

The male Chaffinch has a pink breast and cheeks, blue-grey crown and nape, and chestnut brown back. In summer, its bill is grey-blue, turning to pale brown in the winter.

The female has an olive-brown back, and grey-brown underparts becoming almost white towards the rump, which is greenish. The juveniles are similar to the female but lack the greenish rump. The bill is brown in both the female and juveniles.

The Brambling is similar but has white rump and all-black tail, the Chaffinch has white outer tail feathers in both sexes. They often form mixed flocks in the winter; the Brambling's white rump and Chaffinch's white wing bars are diagnostic features.

Being our commonest finch it is sometimes easy to overlook its beauty despite the male possibly having more colours in its plumage than any other British bird.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Song Rain Call
  Quicktime mp3 Quicktime mp3

The Chaffinch is well known for its "rain" call which is a repetitive short trill, and a loud "pink pink" call.

The song can be remembered by the phrase: "chip chip chip chooee chooee cheeoo".

Feeding

Chaffinches usually feed on seeds and insects, like caterpillars, during the breeding season.

In the garden, they tend to forage on the ground for spilt seed (sunflower seeds and hearts) from the hanging feeders.

Nesting

The Chaffinches build a neat cup nest from moss, grass, and feathers bound with spiders' webs, lined with feathers and wool, and decorated with lichen and flakes of bark. The nest is usually in a fork of a tree or shrub.

The eggs of the Chaffinch are about 20 mm by 15 mm in size, and are smooth, glossy, and light blue with purple-brown blotches. The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by the female. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 1-2 2-8 10-16 11-18

Movements

Resident birds are mostly sedentary with juveniles moving only short distances from the place where they were hatched.

Between September and March, the population increases with 10-20 million immigrants from Scandinavia and Western Europe looking for food. These birds are usually found in large flocks on open farmland, whereas resident British birds are usually in woodlands and hedgerows.

Conservation

Chaffinch populations were affected in the 1950s by use of agricultural chemicals and changes in farming practice, but now seems to be doing all right.

My Garden

Graph of garden visits.

Like the Bullfinch, the Chaffinch used to be a common visitor in the winter, but in recent years the numbers have dwindled and now we hardly ever see them.

During the last few years it has been a female Chaffinch that has visited most frequently, though occasionally a male has accompanied her. Once in the garden, they seem to become almost panic stricken for no apparent reason and then disperse. This behaviour is in stark contrast to those in other areas, such as Snowdonia, where they are somewhat extroverted, and is presumably because they are so few in number in our garden.


Last revision: 06 Sep 2013
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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