Bullfinch

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

One of the largest and most colourful finches.

Bullfinch

Family:

Finches

Length:

14.5cm to 16.5cm

Wingspan:

22cm to 26cm

Weight:

21g to 27g

What does a Bullfinch look like?

The bullfinch lives up to its name through its distinct lack of neck and large, round head. It has a plump body, long wings and a long tail. Its short, stubby, deep bill is black. The male has a black crown and face and a pure ash-grey mantle and nape. It has distinctive pinkish-red underparts that meet whitish under the tail and vent. The difference in underparts' colouring best distinguishes sexes; in males, these are bright red and in females greyish-buff. Juveniles have an entirely grey-brown head.

Female Bullfinch

Female Bullfinch

What does a Bullfinch sound like?

The bullfinch is heard more often than it is seen, and its soft, piping calls can carry a long way through the undergrowth. Its call is a short whistle or fluted note that can have a melancholy ring to it. The song is soft, slow, halting and tentative. Call also been described as sad, squeaky, wheezy, warbling.

Bullfinch Call

Simon Elliott, XC602105. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602105.

What does a Bullfinch eat?

The bullfinch has a mighty bill that is well-adapted for cracking open seeds. In spring, they also enjoy eating fruit tree buds. Their predilection for this food type has given them a bad reputation among commercial fruit growers and orchard owners. They will also eat insects, and these are the primary meal source for nested young. Away from human-made environments, the bullfinch can survive perfectly well on natural resources. Ash keys are an important food source from autumn through to early spring.

Bullfinch eating berries

Bullfinch eating berries

Did you know?

A single bullfinch can eat 30 or more fruit buds in a minute.

Where can I see Bullfinches?

Found throughout most of Europe, the bullfinch is a familiar sight in many gardens.

Signs and spotting tips

The bullfinch is quite shy and retiring, almost unobtrusive. Its white rump shows well during flight, which is fast with long undulations. Even from a distance, the bullfinch can be recognised by its plump body and broad neck. It is known for its quiet, almost sluggish behaviour. Often seen in pairs or loose flocks.

Bullfinch in flight

Bullfinch in flight

How does a Bullfinch breed?

Breeds in mixed woods, parks, large gardens, churchyards, with some conifers. Nests in bush or tree, often on a sheltered branch. Females will lay a clutch of up to 5 eggs which they will incubate for around 14 days. They will raise 2 broods a year, sometimes 3.

Did you know?

During the breeding season, adults develop cheek pouches which allow them to store more food and therefore leave the nest less often.

How long do Bullfinches live for?

The average lifespan of a bullfinch is 2 years, but they can live for up to 12 years.

Do Bullfinches migrate?

Most are resident, but Northern European birds some migrate to Central Europe. Bullfinches can be seen all year round in Britain.

Threats and conservation

UK breeding pairs number approximately 190,000.

What is a group of Bullfinches called?

Known collective nouns for a group of Bullfinches are as follows:

  • a bellowing of bullfinches
  • a lowing of bullfinches
  • a volery of bullfinches

General collective nouns for a group of Finches may also be used:

  • a charm of finches
  • a chirm of finches
  • a company of finches
  • a trembling of finches
  • a trimming of finches

Similar birds to a Bullfinch

Other birds in the Finches family