Chaffinch Nesting (Behaviour, Eggs + Location)

Chaffinch Nesting (Behaviour, Eggs + Location)

The chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is one of the more abundant birds in the UK, so it is very likely you'll see a chaffinch or two in your garden. However, you may also have a chaffinch or two nesting in your garden. Below, we're looking at chaffinch nesting habits in this complete guide.

Where do chaffinches nest?

Chaffinches like to nest in small trees and shrubs. They are often found nesting in hedgerows around farmland, but they do also nest in gardens as well.

Chaffinches have adapted very nicely to human behaviour. They were once found in deciduous woodland but can now be found just about anywhere. They don't build their nests very high, so small trees, shrubs and hedges are prime locations for their nests. This is why it's very common to find nesting chaffinches in gardens and parks.

Key Chaffinch Nesting Facts
Nesting seasonApril to May
Nesting materialGrass, twigs and moss
Nest typeCup-shaped
Nest locationSmall trees and shrubs
Number of broodsOne
Clutch size4 - 5 eggs
Egg colourOff-white with red speckling
Egg size19 x 15 mm
Egg weight2.2 g
Incubation period10 - 16 days, by the female
Fledgling period14 days after hatching
Reuse nestsNo, but will nest in the same area
Use nest boxesNo
Couple of Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) about to mate on lawn

Couple of Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) about to mate on lawn

What do chaffinch nests look like?

Chaffinches must have seen a human drawing of a bird's nest at one point and decided to copy it.

Chaffinch nests are a very typical cup-like shape made from a mixture of grass and small twigs. They often use moss as well but line the cup with softer materials like wool and feathers.

Chaffinches will most often nest near where there is a good source of food, and their nests are built with any local resources they can find. If they nest near farmland, chances are, there will be plenty of hair and wool for them to line their nests with. If they are in a garden, though, they may use moss and feathers.

The nest of a chaffinch, with five eggs inside

The nest of a chaffinch, with five eggs inside

What time of year do chaffinches nest?

Chaffinches begin building their nests in late April early May but begin defending their nesting territory as early as January.

If you notice a lot of chaffinch activity in your garden in April/May, but you can't find a nest, don't be too surprised. Their nests are beautifully made and blend into the environment very nicely.

Chaffinches don't nest too high above the ground, so they use camouflage to hide the nest in dense areas of shrubs and hedges. If they choose to nest in a small tree, they will often use an evergreen tree to hide their nest from view.

How long do chaffinches nest for?

Chaffinches only nest for about a month and a half per year. Once they have made their eggs, the female lays the eggs and sits on them for about 14 days. 14 days after this, the chicks and ready to leave the nest, but they will stay with the parents for up to two weeks after this.

Most chaffinches will only have one brood per year as well. Occasionally, chaffinches will have up to three broods a year, but this is quite rare. If a mating couple does have more than one brood, it is typically because of an unsuccessful attempt earlier in the season.

Male chaffinch singing

Male chaffinch singing

How do chaffinches build their nests?

It's the sole responsibility of the female to build the nest. They will first find a safe nesting site; this is commonly in a hedgerow, shrub or small tree. Once they have a nesting location, females will go out and find small twigs, grass, moss, wool and feathers to build the nest.

They interweave twigs and grass to create a strong cup-like nest and then line the cup with softer material. Overall, it takes about six days for them to create the nest.

The chaffinch nest is one of the most beautiful in the world. It is cleverly constructed to be very strong and camouflaged to its surroundings. The adults take great care to blend the nest into the environment as this will protect the chicks as they grow.

A female chaffinch gathering nesting material

A female chaffinch gathering nesting material

When do baby chaffinches leave the nest?

Baby chaffinches typically leave the nest between 14-18 days after they hatch. The female chaffinch incubates the eggs for about 14 days after she lays them. So, a typical brood time for chaffinches is around a month.

After the baby chaffinches leave the nest, they will stay with their parents for a further two-three weeks. The parents will feed the young during this time, and once the babies are ready, they will join a flock of chaffinches and go off and eat for the rest of the summer.

A recently fledged chaffinch chick

A recently fledged chaffinch chick

How many broods do chaffinches have?

Most pairs of chaffinches will only have one brood per year, laying four to five eggs each time.

There is a small chance that a chaffinch couple will have more than one brood per year. However, this usually occurs if the first brood of the season wasn't successful, and in this case, the chaffinches will often rebuild their nest in a different location.

Do chaffinches nest in the same place every year?

Chaffinches do tend to nest in the same area every year, and males usually will make the choice as to where. The male chaffinch has a nesting territory that he will start to defend as early as January, even though nesting doesn't occur until late April.

Chaffinches don't tend to reuse nests from previous years, though. They like to build a new one every year. This new nest could be metres away from the old one, but they will build a new one anyway.

Female chaffinch in flight

Female chaffinch in flight

What do chaffinch eggs look like?

Chaffinch eggs are an off-white colour (slightly blue to some people's eyes), with reddish-brown flecks all over them. Their eggs are tiny at just 19mm tall and 15mm wide, and they weigh only 2.2 grams on average.

What month do chaffinches lay eggs?

The female chaffinch will begin laying eggs in late April early May, laying one egg a day.

Do chaffinches use nest boxes?

It'd be very unlikely for a chaffinch to use as a nest box. Cavity nest builders love to use nesting boxes, but chaffinches are not cavity nesters. Instead, they prefer to nest in dense shrubs and hedges.

We can't say that no chaffinches have ever built their nests in a nesting box because it may have happened. However, because they like to camouflage their nest in dense hedgerows and trees, they are unlikely visitors of nesting boxes.

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