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Female Greenfinches: All You Need To Know

Greenfinches, also known as European Greenfinches (Chloris chloris) used to be a common sight at bird feeders around the UK. Sadly, in 2005, they were hit with a finch disease known as trichomonosis, and the population of this beautiful bird has declined by about 35%. Thankfully, though, greenfinches are on their way back to full health. So, as we could be seeing more greenfinches in our gardens again soon, we thought we learn all about female greenfinches in this article.

Female greenfinches have a pale grey-brown plumage with a slight ting of yellow on their belly. They also have some yellow on their wings, but compared to the males, their plumage is quite dull in colour. Though their colouring is different, they are a similar size to the male.

The differences between female and male greenfinches don’t just stop at their plumage, though. As we’ll see, female greenfinches are quite busy throughout the nesting season.

Like many other bird species, female greenfinches build the nest by themselves. They nest between April and August, and the females build the nests low to the ground. They will typically find a dense shrub or hedgerow. They can even be found in hedges in our gardens too.

Close up of a female Greenfinch, perched on a branch

Close up of a female Greenfinch, perched on a branch

What does a female Greenfinch look like?

A female greenfinch has almost no green colouring in its plumage at all. Instead, their plumage is a brown-grey colour, with a few flashes of duller yellow on their wings and rump. Both males and females have brown beaks and brown legs, so the plumage is the best way to tell them apart.

Juvenile greenfinches look much like the female, so it can be very tricky to identify the sex of a greenfinch until they have matured and their plumage has grown in.

During the nesting season of greenfinches (between April and August), you may see what appears to be lots more females than males. However, this is likely to be juvenile greenfinches who haven’t grown in their plumage fully yet.

After a few months, the differences in plumage should be enough to determine the sexes of the female and male greenfinches in your garden.

Close up of a female Greenfinch

Close up of a female Greenfinch

What is the difference between a male and female Greenfinch?

A male greenfinch has a dull-olive and yellow plumage that turns to a green-yellow colour across their breast and lower parts. They also have bright yellow flashes on their wings. The male is what give this bird species its name. The females have much duller plumage, with a few flashes of yellow on their wings and rump feathers. Still, most of their feathers are a dull brown-grey colour.

The colourings of the male and female greenfinch are the most striking difference and the best way to tell the sexes apart most of the year. Juvenile greenfinches do have very similar plumage to the females, though. This can make relying on colour differences during the nesting season to tell them apart a bit more difficult.

During nesting season, though, there is some behavioural difference between the female and male greenfinch that can help us tell them apart. A female greenfinch makes the nest. So, if you see a greenfinch with twigs, moss or other nesting materials, it is most likely a female.

Male (left) and female (right) Greenfinches together at a bird feeder

Male (left) and female (right) Greenfinches together at a bird feeder

Behaviour differences

One of the biggest behavioural differences between the female and male greenfinch is that the female constructs the nest by herself. This is quite common with smaller bird species with many female tits and finches left to build the nest themselves.

Female greenfinches are expert nest builders. They chose a nesting site close to the ground in dense hedgerows, hedges and shrubs. They will then collect twigs and moss from the local environment and construct a cup-like nest, weaving the twigs to ensure a strong structure. Once this has been completed, the female greenfinch will then line the nest with moss and hair to protect her eggs.

Another notable behavioural difference between male and female greenfinches is that the female is responsible for incubating the eggs alone. Some male and female birds take turns keeping the eggs warm, but the female greenfinch is alone in this task. The male greenfinch will bring food back to the nest for her during the 12-14 incubation days.

Female Greenfinch gathering nesting material

Female Greenfinch gathering nesting material

Singing and calls

Male and female Greenfinches have very similar calls and singing patterns. So much so that you can’t really tell the difference between their songs.

Males certainly sing a lot more than females during the year, and this is likely the males flirting with the females. Female greenfinches aren’t afraid to break out into song, though. So, if you have a very chatty greenfinch in your garden, it could be either sex.

The best way to tell greenfinches apart is their plumage, with the males being an olive green colour with streaks of yellow. The females have much duller colours and almost no green in their plumage at all.

Female Greenfinch feeding on sunflower seeds

Female Greenfinch feeding on sunflower seeds

Nesting and feeding

During the nesting period, it is the female greenfinch that builds the nest. They construct the nest from twigs and moss, weaving the nest into a cup-like structure. Once the nesting cup has been completed, the female will then line it with moss and hair to protect the eggs.

She then incubates the eggs alone. While other birds take turns incubating the eggs, it is the sole responsibility of the female greenfinch. The incubation process takes about 12-14 days. During this time, the male greenfinch will bring food back to the nest for the female so that she can focus on incubating the eggs.

There aren’t many differences between male and female greenfinches eating habits. However, this bird is a very picky eater. If you’ve ever gone to your feeding stations and noticed a lot of seeds all over the floor, this could be the work of a greenfinch.

They love black sunflower seeds and will often throw other seeds on the floors to get to the sunflower seeds. Both the males and the females will use feeding tables, and greenfinches are now also coming around to the idea of using hanging feeders as well.

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