Fringilla coelebs

One of the most common birds to visit back gardens in the UK – and also one of the most easy to identify – the chaffinch is a colourful and tuneful finch, known for its cheery, repetitive trilled song. They live in a wide range of habitats, and with more than 5 million breeding pairs, it shouldn’t be too difficult to tick one off your bird spotting list if you know where to look.



Female Chaffinch feeding on seeds

Female Chaffinch feeding on seeds

Close up of a Chaffinch (male)

Close up of a Chaffinch (male)

Pair of Chaffinches foraging - female at the front, male in the background

Pair of Chaffinches foraging - female at the front, male in the background

Appearance & Identification

What do Chaffinches look like?

Male chaffinches are particularly distinctive among garden birds, with a reddish-pink face, breast and belly. Their crown and nape are blue-grey, and their upper back is chestnut brown, leading to a greenish rump.

Their tail is black with white sides, and their black wings are barred with yellow and white bands.

Male chaffinches have a blue bill during the breeding season, which becomes a pinkish-grey once breeding ends.

Close up of an adult male Chaffinch

Close up of an adult male Chaffinch

Female chaffinches are nowhere near as striking as their male counterparts, although they do share the same marking patterns – just in muted shades of brownish-green and grey-white.

Their upper parts are pale olive greenish-brown, and their underparts are greyish-white. Their tails are dark brown, marked with a yellow central stripe, and their brown wings are barred with yellow and white feathers.

Juvenile chaffinches are similar in colouring to females but slightly more of a greyish-yellow colour than olive-brown. After undergoing an initial moult, young chaffinches gain their full adult plumage at around 16 weeks.

How big are Chaffinches?

Male and female chaffinches are roughly the same size, and are classed as medium birds in the finch family. They are slightly smaller than greenfinches and bullfinches, but larger than goldfinches, siskins and redpolls.

  • Length: 14.5 cm (5.7 in)
  • Wingspan: 24.5 cm to 28.5cm (9.6 in to 11.2 in)
  • Weight: 18 g to 29 g (0.6 oz to 1.0 oz)
Female Chaffinch

Female Chaffinch

Did you know?

In Britain in the 19th century, the chaffinch was popular as a caged songbird, and people would bet on its singing.

Calls & Sounds

What sound does a Chaffinch make?

As well as being one of the most colourful garden birds, chaffinches are also one of the most tuneful, particularly the males. Male chaffinches have a repertoire of six different songs, which they belt out on rotation.

The 'pink' call of a chaffinch, is a social contact call, heard when perched. A rain call is also well-known, consisting of a buzzing note that can signal wet weather on the horizon.

But arguably, the most recognisable chaffinch song is a descending series of musical notes, ending in a melodic flourish – and usually repeated several times in quick succession from the upper branches of nearby trees.

david m, XC613420. Accessible at


What do Chaffinches eat?

The main diet of chaffinches is invertebrates, in particular caterpillars, but a variety of other insects are also readily eaten. In winter, seeds become a key element of a chaffinch’s diet.

They are often seen foraging on the ground in gardens, scouring grass and fallen leaves for any natural seeds or tiny insects.

In winter months berries and nuts may also be eaten by hungry chaffinches. They don’t usually eat from hanging feeders or bird tables, preferring instead to hop around on the ground below and picking up any seeds, nuts or mealworms that have been spilled by other visiting birds.

For a more in-depth guide to what chaffinches eat, check out this article.

What do baby Chaffinches eat?

Chaffinch babies are mostly fed insects and invertebrates by their parents. If insects are in short supply, then seeds may be fed instead, but insects offer a vital source of protein in their early days.

Close up of a Chaffinch fledgling being fed by adult bird

Close up of a Chaffinch fledgling being fed by adult bird

Habitat & Distribution

What is the habitat of a Chaffinch?

Chaffinches are found in a variety of habitats, including farmland, parkland, open woodland, hedgerows, and back gardens. Preferred trees include oak, which offers a large source of insect life, and beech, which provides a good supply of seeds in winter months.

What is the range of a Chaffinch?

The breeding range of chaffinches extends across Europe, north Africa and north-west Asia.

In winter, chaffinches that breed in the furthest northern extremes of their range, in north-west Asia, migrate to southern Asia. The species has been successfully introduced into South Africa and New Zealand.

Where do Chaffinches live?

Chaffinches are widespread in all parts of the UK, and live in a diverse range of habitats, including open woodlands, hedgerows, fields, parks and gardens, in both rural and urban areas.

Close up of a singing Chaffinch in its natural habitat

Close up of a singing Chaffinch in its natural habitat

How rare are Chaffinches?

Chaffinches are Britain’s most common finch species, and rank in the country’s top five breeding birds, alongside wrens, robins, blackbirds and house sparrows. The UK population of chaffinches was estimated at around 5.05 million breeding pairs in 2020.

Where can you see Chaffinches in the UK?

As one of the UK’s top five breeding birds, you won’t have to travel too far to stand a good chance of spotting a chaffinch. They are common in parks, woodlands and gardens, particularly open deciduous woodland and parkland in residential and suburban areas.

In spring, winter visitors gather in open countryside ahead of their migration to their breeding grounds in northern and north-eastern Europe.

Chaffinch Flying

Chaffinch Flying

Lifespan & predation

How long do Chaffinches live?

A lifespan of around 3 years is usual for a chaffinch, with first-time breeding at one year. An individual ringed bird that reached the ripe old age of 13 years and 11 months was found in 2011.

What are the predators of Chaffinches?

Like many garden birds of a similar size, the top predators of chaffinches include sparrowhawks and pet cats. Chaffinch nests, eggs and young are at risk of being raided by birds such as crows or magpies, and mammals including squirrels, stoats and weasels.

Are Chaffinches protected?

As with all wild birds that live in Britain, chaffinches are protected from being intentionally killed, injured or captured by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Under the same act, their eggs and nest site are also protected from being damaged or destroyed.

Are Chaffinches endangered?

Chaffinches are far from endangered in the UK, as they are among the country’s most common breeding birds.

With more than 5 million resident breeding pairs and a IUCN rating as a species of least concern, we’re not going to have to worry about chaffinches disappearing from our parks, gardens and woodlands any time soon.

Male Chaffinch in flight, greeting a perched female

Male Chaffinch in flight, greeting a perched female

Nesting & Breeding

Where do Chaffinches nest?

Chaffinches build deep, cup-shaped nests, usually in the fork of a tree or tucked deep inside shrubs, bushes and hedgerows. While nesting spots are most commonly chosen in countryside locations, back garden bushes or hedges alongside footpaths and in parks or allotments may also be used.

The main nest structure is crafted from lichen, moss and dried grasses, while the inside is lined with thin roots, feathers and hair. Chaffinch nests are particularly sturdy but are only used once – chaffinches normally raise one sole brood in a season, and do not reuse nests in subsequent years.

For more information on chaffinch nesting, check out this guide.

Male Chaffinch looking after the young chicks in the nest

Male Chaffinch looking after the young chicks in the nest

What do Chaffinch eggs look like?

Chaffinch eggs are small, smooth and either off-white or very pale blue, speckled with small purple-brown markings that are more concentrated at one end. The eggs measure 15 mm by 19 mm (0.6 in by 0.7 in), and weigh 2.2g (0.1 oz).

The typical clutch size is between 4 and 5 eggs, which are then incubated by the female chaffinch alone, for between 12 and 13 days.

Do Chaffinches mate for life?

Pair bonds between chaffinches will usually last more than one season, with pairs reuniting in subsequent years to raise broods together again.

Once the breeding season ends, males tend to remain in their home territory throughout the winter, while females disperse southwards in search of slightly warmer weather. In spring, females return and reunite with their mate to breed once more.

<p><strong>Juvenile Chaffinch</strong></p>

Juvenile Chaffinch

<p><strong>Chaffinch from behind</strong></p>

Chaffinch from behind


Are Chaffinches aggressive?

Chaffinches use the same breeding territories year after year and defend them aggressively from other birds. The male is particularly territorial, using loud, powerful song as his first form of defence to warn off intruders.


Do Chaffinches migrate?

Britain’s breeding chaffinch populations are resident all year round, and while they do not technically migrate when the temperatures drop, females may leave their home territory temporarily in search of slightly warmer weather a short distance away. Males, however, remain in their breeding territory, protecting it until the following spring.

Each autumn and winter, the number of chaffinches on British soil increases considerably, with the arrival of overwintering birds from northern and north-eastern Europe.

What is a group of Chaffinches called?

There are no specific collective nouns for a group of Chaffinches, but you can use finch-specific ones such as:

  • A charm of chaffinches
  • A chirm of chaffinches
  • A company of chaffinches
  • A trembling of chaffinches
  • A trimming of chaffinches

    Enjoyed this content? Share it now

    Quick Facts


    Scientific name:

    Fringilla coelebs

    Other names:

    Common Chaffinch



    Conservation status:






    24.5cm to 28.5cm


    18g to 29g

    Learn more about the Chaffinch

    Similar birds to a Chaffinch

    Other birds in the Finches family

    Get the best of Birdfact

    Brighten up your inbox with our exclusive newsletter, enjoyed by thousands of people from around the world.

    Your information will be used in accordance with Birdfact's privacy policy. You may opt out at any time.

    © 2024 - Birdfact. All rights reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced without our written permission.