One of the largest and most colourful finches.
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.
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.
Simon Elliott, XC602105. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602105.
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
A single bullfinch can eat 30 or more fruit buds in a minute.
Found throughout most of Europe, the bullfinch is a familiar sight in many gardens.
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
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.
During the breeding season, adults develop cheek pouches which allow them to store more food and therefore leave the nest less often.
The average lifespan of a bullfinch is 2 years, but they can live for up to 12 years.
Most are resident, but Northern European birds some migrate to Central Europe. Bullfinches can be seen all year round in Britain.
UK breeding pairs number approximately 190,000.
Known collective nouns for a group of Bullfinches are as follows:
General collective nouns for a group of Finches may also be used:
This small to medium sized finch is a breeding resident found throughout the UK apart from the far west of northern Scotland. A social bird, it often feeds in flocks throughout the year.
An exquisite little bird, distinguished by red face and characteristic bright yellow wing bands.
This medium sized finch is a specialised feeder with a chunky downwards curving beak which is crossed at its end giving rise to its descriptive name.
A charming, acrobatic finch with a distinctive red patch on its head. They are found across parts of Europe, Asia and northern North America.
With its powerful voice and frequent singing, the chaffinch is one of the birds most heard in woodland and parks.