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Common Linnet Male Linnet Male
Brown upperparts, grey head and crimson forehead and breast in summer.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Carduelis cannabina
Length: 13.5 cm  (5½")
Wing Span: 21-25 cm  (8½-10")
Weight: 15-20 g  (½-¾ oz) Female Linnet Female
Duller than the male and without any crimson.
Breeding Pairs: 520 000
Present: All Year
Status: Red
Description   Voice   Feeding   Nesting   Movements   Conservation   My Garden  
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Linnets may be confused with Redpoll and Twite (Cardeulis flavirostris), but both these species are smaller. Also, the Redpoll has a red crown and black bib, and the Twite has a pink rump and streaky upperparts. Like all finches the Linnet has a deeply forked tail, although it is quite short in this small finch.

Both sexes have a chestnut mantle and whitish underparts with brown streaks, but the female is duller than the male. The bill is grey and the legs are flesh-brown.

In the summer, the male is very distinctive with grey head, pale crimson forehead and breast, and dark streaking on its whitish throat. In the winter, they become much duller.

Juveniles are similar to the female adult birds, but paler and with bolder streaking, and the bill and legs are pale grey with a yellow or pink tinge.



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They have a rapid twittering flight call, which is similar to that of the Greenfinch and Redpoll; the Greenfinch's call is lower-pitched and the Redpoll is more metallic sounding.

The male's song is a medley of slightly wheezy warbling notes, usually sung from a perch in a tree.

Another finch, the Twite, has a "twayee" call with similar qualities to the Linnet but is often described as being more "twangy".


Linnets feed mainly on small seeds, such as dandelion and oil rape seed, but also on some insects, especially in the summer

In winter, they often form large flocks, sometimes mixed flocks with other seed-eaters, and feed in open country on stubbles, salt-marshes and wasteland.


Linnets breed on heaths and scrubland, in hedgerows and in gardens with bushes.

The nest, which is built by the female, is a cup of grass, moss and twigs, lined with hair and wool.

The smooth, non-glossy eggs are pale blue with fine purple and brown spots, and about 18 mm by 13 mm. Incubation is by the female only. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 2-3 4-6 10-14 11-17


The resident population is boosted by passage migrants and winter visitors.


They have become a species of high conservation concern - a Red Listed species - owing to a dramatic decline since the 1970s. The most likely cause is changes in farming practices, such as smaller field margins and using herbicides to kill the weeds, which means there are fewer weed seeds, and autumn sowing of crops, which means there is less stubble in winter.

Set-aside (uncultivated land in which various wildlife habitats may develop over a number of years), wide field margins and traditional hedgerow management can help to halt and reverse their decline.

My Garden

When I was a boy, there used to be Linnets in the neighbourhood, and they sometimes visited the garden. There have been small flocks reported in the local patch, but I have only seen a single male bird so far.

Last revision: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2014.
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