Greenfinch Nesting: A Complete Guide

Greenfinch Nesting: A Complete Guide

If you've ever seen a flash of yellow and green whizzing through your garden, you likely have greenfinches in your area.

These beautiful birds are a firm favourite in our gardens, and so we thought it was about time we look at how they nest, where they nest and what their nests are made from. So, here's a complete guide to greenfinch nesting habits.

Where do greenfinches nest?

Greenfinches like to nest in dense hedges and shrubbery. So, they may nest in your garden if the environment is right, but a hedgerow is more likely.

These green beauties will often build in their nests in very dense shrubs but will nest in trees if they are dense enough. They don't nest very high up, though, only a few feet above the ground. So, dense evergreen trees are an ideal tree for greenfinches to nest in.

Key Greenfinch Nesting Facts
Nesting seasonmid-Mar to mid-Aug, peak mid-May to early July
Nesting materialMoss, grass and twigs
Nest typeCup-shaped
Nest locationDense hedges and shrubbery
Number of broodsTwo
Clutch size4 -5 eggs, up to 7 in some cases
Egg colourBuff-coloured, greyish-white or bluish-white, with occasional dark spotting
Egg size20 x 15 mm
Egg weight2.2 g
Incubation period14 days, by the female
Fledgling period14 – 18 days after hatching
Reuse nestsHighly unlikely, but same nesting territories will be used
Use nest boxesNo
The nest of a European Greenfinch, with one of the parents feeding the chicks

The nest of a European Greenfinch, with one of the parents feeding the chicks

What do greenfinch nests look like?

Greenfinches build their nests with moss, grass and twigs, and they have the classic cup-like shape that we think of when we think of a bird's nest. Unlike many birds that construct a strong nest, interweaving the material as they go, greenfinches aren't as fussy about their nest's construction.

Greenfinches do invest some time when building their nests, but they will often only use them for one breeding season, so they don't need to be extremely strong. They, instead, cleverly use dense hedges and shrubs to disguise their nesting sites from predators.

Greenfinch nest with six eggs inside

Greenfinch nest with six eggs inside

What time of year do greenfinches nest?

Greenfinches will begin constructing their nests in late March-early April, ready for the breeding season. They will then leave their nests in August once the breeding season is finished.

If you have dense hedges or trees in your garden, try not to cut them back during March and April. These are ideal spots for greenfinches to nest in.

The dense cover provides the perfect disguise for their nest and protects their young. If you notice greenfinches in your garden between April and August, be very careful when trimming dense areas of shrubbery, there could be baby greenfinches hiding in nests.

A pair of greenfinches feeding on seeds

A pair of greenfinches feeding on seeds

How long do greenfinches nest for?

Greenfinches nest between April and August. This is their breeding season, so it is pretty typical to see greenfinches scouting nesting sites in late March.

How do greenfinches build their nests?

Greenfinches make their nests from twigs, moss and grass. They interweave the materials to create a cup-like nest, a very typical bird's nest.

With greenfinches, it is all about location when it comes to nests. They often only use the nest once and use cover to disguise it very well. Greenfinches commonly nest in very dense shrubbery and hedges and some evergreen trees. They bury their nests deep inside this dense material in order to disguise them.

Their nests are very well hidden so they don't need to spend much time making them strong. Instead, they can focus on raising their chicks while being camouflaged in the dense shrubbery.

A greenfinch gathering nesting material for their nest

A greenfinch gathering nesting material for their nest

When do baby greenfinches leave the nest?

Baby greenfinches leave the nest about 15 days after they hatch. But stay with the parents, and are fed by them for a further three weeks.

The parents can have 4-6 eggs per clutch and will often have 2-3 broods per year. The eggs take 12-14 days to hatch. So, the babies are with the adults for about 50 days on average. Once the first chicks of the season have left, the adults will very likely use the same nest for another brood.

How many broods do greenfinches have?

Most greenfinches will have two broods, but if one of the first two broods fails, they will try for a third.

Broods can fail for a number of reasons; predators are a big cause, though. However, some broods fail because of nest construction. If the parents are a bit new to building nests, they can often fail during the brooding process. If this happens, the parents will build a new nest and try again.

Greenfinch chicks in the nest

Greenfinch chicks in the nest

Do greenfinches nest in the same place every year?

Greenfinches will use the same nesting places every year, but very rarely will they use the exact same nest. Typically, nests are made for a single season, even sometimes a single brood.

Greenfinches in the UK, though, don't migrate. The furthest they travel is a few miles down the road. So, they will return to the same nesting territory every year as long as they have had success in previous years.

What do greenfinch eggs look like?

Greenfinch eggs are glossy and are usually buff-coloured, greyish-white or even bluish-white. They are usually covered with blotching of pink, with occasional dark spotting.

Male greenfinch gathering nesting material

Male greenfinch gathering nesting material

What month do greenfinches lay eggs?

Greenfinches begin breeding in April and go right through to August.

You may begin to hear male greenfinches singing their songs in January. This is flirting, basically. The male is trying to find a female for the breeding season, and most females have a date by the end of February.

This gives the couple time to scout nesting locations and build the nest before breeding takes place in April.

So the first clutch of eggs is usually laid in April, and a second will be laid after those chicks leave the parents, about 50 days after that. So, greenfinches will also lay eggs in late May-early June.

Greenfinch perched on a branch

Greenfinch perched on a branch

Do greenfinches use nest boxes?

Greenfinches don't typically use nesting boxes. Most bird species that use bird boxes are cavity nesters, meaning they build their nests in natural cavities in trees, for example.

Greenfinches much prefer to use very dense shrubbery, hedgerows and dense evergreen trees to build their nests in.

If you have hedges in your garden, it is best to avoid cutting them in March if you want to attract nesting greenfinches into your garden. They can use the hedges to build their nests.

You could also plant evergreen trees if you want to attract finches to nest in your garden.

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