What Do Chaffinches Eat?

Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), are one of the most widespread bird species in the UK. They even have regional accents, so a chaffinch from the north of the UK may have a hard time understanding a cockney counterpart. Which can make things difficult for chaffinches to explain where the best takeaways and restaurants are in the area. But what is on the menu for a chaffinch? Well, let’s find out, shall we?

Chaffinches have a very varied diet. In the summer, they eat many insects, with caterpillars being very popular. In the colder months, chaffinches switch their diets to seeds and will occasionally eat fruit and some nuts as well.

Chaffinches aren’t too picky about what they eat, unlike many other birds. So, if you’re trying to attract chaffinches into your garden, you can do so fairly easily, as we’ll see below.

Chaffinches like to eat seeds directly off of plants. You’ll also see them on the ground a lot as they are ground-feeding birds. So, if you ever see chaffinches at your feeding stations, they will likely be on the floor cleaning up any seeds that other birds have pushed off of the table.

Common Chaffinch eating seeds during the winter

Common Chaffinch eating seeds during the winter

What do chaffinches eat in the summer?

Chaffinches love to eat insects in the summer, with the most popular being caterpillars. However, they will eat just about any insect during the warmer months. They are ground feeders, so you will often see chaffinches exploring the floor, picking up insects as they go.

A very common time for chaffinches to visit your garden is after you have mowed your lawn. This draws a lot of insects out of the thick grass, and the chaffinches are there to greet them with open beaks.

Chaffinches will also happily feed at feeding stations throughout the year. They will feed on seeds at feeding stations all year round but will be drawn to mealworms the most during the summer months.

Female Chaffinch with a beak full of insects

Female Chaffinch with a beak full of insects

What do chaffinches eat in the winter?

As the cold draws in, chaffinches rely heavily on seeds for most of their diet. They prefer to take seeds directly off of the plant but will also forage on the floor for fallen seeds too.

Chaffinches, despite being one of the noisiest birds in our gardens, are quite shy. So, while feeding, they like to do so alone.

This is why it’s very common to see chaffinches picking at the floor underneath a feeding table for fallen seeds rather than up at the table mixing with other birds. Many bird species will throw seeds off of the table as they are selecting the perfect seed to eat. So, there is usually plenty of food for chaffinches on the floor. There is no need to scatter seeds around the bottom of the feeding station for chaffinches; picky birds will do this for you.

Chaffinch foraging in the snow

Chaffinch foraging in the snow

What food attracts chaffinches?

When trying to attract chaffinches to your garden, you can use almost any seed mix. Chaffinches are not too picky compared to other birds. However, they do have a weakness for peanuts, mealworms and suet blocks. They will also happily eat sunflower hearts, berries, insects and some fruits too.

Chaffinches have a varied natural diet, so they don’t mind mixing it up at feeding stations either. They are ground feeders, though. They prefer to feed on the ground as they feel safer. So, if you do get chaffinches in your garden, you’ll most likely see them feeding on the ground.

A lot of other bird species will throw seeds on the floor as they feed, so there is plenty of food on the ground for the chaffinches without you needing to scatter any seeds.

Chaffinch eating sunflower seeds from a bird feeder

Chaffinch eating sunflower seeds from a bird feeder

What do baby chaffinches eat?

Chaffinches feed their babies mostly insects as they are a great source of protein and help the babies grow as quickly as possible. Chaffinches will feed seeds to their babies if there aren’t many insects to be found, but they much prefer feeding them insects.

If you have a feeding station in your garden, putting mealworms out between April and June can really help chaffinches. This is their nesting period, and they need lots of insects to care for their young and keep themselves going. You can also rehydrate the mealworms too. This gives the chaffinch a much-needed source of fluid.

Chaffinch feeding a recently fledged chick

Chaffinch feeding a recently fledged chick

Are chaffinches ground feeders?

Chaffinches are ground feeders, preferring to forage for seeds, fruit, berries and insects in the grass. It is very common for chaffinches to appear in your garden just after you have mowed the grass for this very reason. It's much easier for them to find insects in the short grass.

Chaffinches also like to eat seeds directly from the plant. So, you may see them perched on a plant or two during the colder months. When they feed at feeding stations, though, most chaffinches prefer to remain on the floor. They will pick through the discarded seeds from the table above happily for a long time.

Chaffinch eating rowan berries from a tree

Chaffinch eating rowan berries from a tree

What do chaffinches drink?

Like all birds, chaffinches don’t really need to drink much to survive because they don’t sweat. They do need a bit of moisture, but they usually get enough from their food to survive. Their main source of liquid is actually from insects, though you may see them have a beak or two of water every now and then.

A great way of giving chaffinches fluid is to soak mealworms in water before you put them out at feeding stations. Many birds get their fluid from insects, so if they are relying on mealworms for food, they will need extra fluid. Soaking the mealworms in water will rehydrate them and give the birds a much-needed source of fluid.

What eats chaffinches?

Chaffinches are most commonly killed by cats, sadly. Sparrowhawks are the only natural predator of adult chaffinches. However, there are many predators that will take the eggs of chaffinches. This is why chaffinches like to nest in dense bushes and hedges, but some will also nest in tall trees to try and keep away from predators.

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