Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs

With its powerful voice and frequent singing, the chaffinch is one of the birds most heard in woodland and parks.

Chaffinch

Family:

Finches

Length:

14.5cm

Wingspan:

25.5cm to 28.5cm

Weight:

18g to 29g

What does a Chaffinch look like?

The male chaffinch is very distinctive, with a pink face, breast and belly. The crown, nape and upper mantle are all a delicate blue-grey. The lower mantle is chestnut-brown above a grey-green rump ending in a long tail with white tail-sides. The bill is blue in breeding-season but dull pinkish-grey at other times. Legs are brown. It shows a broad, white wing-bar across the tips of its greater coverts. The female chaffinch is pale olive-brown above and greyish-white below. After the moult, the juvenile’s plumage is coloured similar to the female, but it has narrower wing-bars.

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.

What does a Chaffinch sound like?

Although a chaffinch’s song had a generally recognisable form, each male, in fact, has up to six song types that he will cycle through. Not all chaffinches sound the same. Because they learn their songs from the birds around them, flocks have regional dialects. Perched birds give a spirited, sharp “fink”.

david m, XC613420. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/613420.

What does a Chaffinch eat?

The chaffinch mostly eats seeds from the ground and invertebrates, especially caterpillars which it will feed to its young. It has a wedge-shaped bill that can crush seeds, typical of finches. However, the chaffinch bill is finer than those of other finches, enabling it to eat a wider variety of food.

Chaffinch Flying

Chaffinch Flying

Where can I see Chaffinches?

The chaffinch is Britain’s second commonest bird and can be seen throughout the UK. It prefers more open woods to dense ones. However, it can be seen in all types of gardens, parks and woodland. In March and April, winter visitors will gather in flocks above farmland.

Signs and spotting tips

The chaffinch is usually easily recognisable by its two white wing-bars, seen as a white flash when in flight. Female chaffinches are about the same size as sparrows and have similar plumage. The main difference is the bold stripes on the female chaffinch’s back, which the house sparrow lacks. The chaffinch’s flight is strong and undulating, and it often alights with a few fluttering, sweeping turns. Chaffinches will often forage on the ground.

How does a Chaffinch breed?

Chaffinches first breed when they are one year old. They are mainly monogamous.

The female will work alone to build a nest, usually in the fork of a tree. The nest will have a deep cup lined with thin roots, feathers and hair; and be camouflaged on the outside with lichen and moss. In Britain, most clutches are laid between late April and the middle of June. The female will lay 4-5 eggs which will be coloured blueish or reddish-grey with purple-brown splotches and scrawls.

Juvenile chaffinch

Juvenile Chaffinch

Chaffinch 1

Chaffinch from behind

How long do Chaffinches live for?

Chaffinches generally live for around 3 years, although an individual in Switzerland was over 16 years old.

Do Chaffinches migrate?

British and Irish chaffinch populations are resident, and their numbers increase in autumn and winter with a considerable influx from the north and north-east Europe.

Threats and conservation

In the UK, the chaffinch is estimated at around 5.4 million pairs. There is no evidence of any serious decline in numbers, and the species has a status of least concern.

What are 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

    Similar birds to a Chaffinch

    Other birds in the Finches family