The common rosefinch (Carpodacus erythrinus) is resident in forest and woodland habitats across northern Europe and Asia, and, as its name suggests, has a plumage marked with various shades of red and pink.
Female Common Rosefinch perched in a tree
Close up of a male Rosefinch
14.5cm to 15cm
22cm to 26cm
21g to 27g
Common rosefinches, also known as scarlet rosefinches, are medium finches with a stocky build, forked tail and a dark grey stubby bill. Males and females are different in appearance, although roughly the same size.
Adult male Common rosefinches have bright red upperparts and breast feathers, with paler reddish-white underparts that are streaked with brown and black. Their wings and tail are a much darker brown.
Female Common rosefinches may be confused with female House sparrows, and lack the scarlet plumage of their male counterparts. They are an olive-grey shade all over, with paler underparts, and darker brown wing and tail feathers. Under the eye, female rosefinches have a small white crescent of feathers, and their heads are streaked with black on the crown and forehead.
Juvenile common rosefinches are similar in appearance to adult females, with brownish-grey bodies mottled with darker markings.
First year males are a greenish-grey colour and continue to look similar to females, although their head feathers have a tinge of buff-pink and their wing bars are becoming more pronounced barred wings.
Juvenile Male Rosefinch
Rosefinches are classed as medium to large members of the finch family, smaller than a hawfinch but larger than a goldfinch. Males and females are roughly the same size, measuring on average between 13 and 15 cm (5 and 6 in).
Outside of breeding season, Common rosefinches are not especially vocal birds. Males begin singing in early spring, and have a distinctive and repetitive short song, with three to five rising high-pitched notes.
Rosefinch calling from a perch
The diet of Common rosefinches consists mainly of plant and tree seeds (particularly larch, spruce and juniper), as well as shoots, fruit and berries.
Rosefinches forage on the ground and in low vegetation. Buds and flowerheads are quickly and expertly stripped from shrubbery, and outer husks removed from cereal crops. Insects and larvae are also an important part of a rosefinch’s diet, particularly in summer months, when dragonfly and damselfly are frequently eaten. Additional minerals are obtained from deposits at saltpans.
Baby common rosefinches are fed by both parents with a regurgitated pulp of seeds and insects.
Common Rosefinch eating seeds off the ground (Carpodacus erythrinus erythrinus)
The natural habitat of common rosefinches ranges from lowland forests and deciduous and mixed woodlands to scrubland next to rivers and lakes. In winter months, they may venture into gardens, orchards, and urban parks in search of food.
Rosefinches are common across eastern Europe, through Russia, and as far east as Japan. In recent decades, resident populations of Common rosefinch have been observed further into western Europe, reaching as far as England, Portugal and Sweden.
In winter months, some of the northernmost populations will migrate south, reaching wintering grounds in India, Sri Lanka, southern Iran, Myanmar, and south-eastern China. On rare occasions, Common rosefinches have been spotted in the wild in North America, where it is recognized as a vagrant visitor. Breeding has been observed on a sporadic basis in the UK, where migratory birds have also been seen in passage.
Common Rosefinch perched on a branch
Common rosefinches are widespread across northern Asia and also have resident year-round populations in eastern and central Europe.
There are estimated to be up to 631,000 breeding pairs of Common rosefinches in Europe, mainly located in Finland and Belarus. By far the largest share of the Common rosefinch population is resident in Russia, where an estimated 10 million pairs are present, at least for part of the year.
In the UK, rosefinches are incredibly rare, with between 0 and 4 breeding pairs. Migratory birds in passage swell the numbers with up to 146 sightings between May and October. Deeper into their natural habitat, rosefinches are a common sight, with an estimated 10 million pairs in Russia alone.
Although rosefinches do sporadically breed in the UK, the best chance of seeing one of these scarlet songbirds is in May and October, when migratory birds may be passing through en-route to their final winter and summer destinations.
The best places to see Common rosefinches in the UK include the Northern Isles and along the coast of eastern Scotland. Coastal strips of eastern and south-eastern England are also good spots for a potential sighting, particularly in May and October.
A perched female common rosefinch
The average lifespan of a Common rosefinch is between two and three years.
Rosefinches build their nests at a relatively low height, which means they are at risk of being raided by a number of predators, including weasels, squirrels, pine martens, rodents and other birds.
Common rosefinches are protected under The Birds Directive, EU legislation that safeguards the survival of wild birds across Europe. In England, Scotland and Wales, Common rosefinches, their nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, Common rosefinches are classed as a species of least concern, and are the most common rosefinches in Asia and Europe. However, increasing habitat loss has started to have a negative impact on population numbers in recent years.
Rosefinch male perched on top of a yellow flower
Rosefinches build nests low down in bushes, less than 90 cm (3 ft) off the ground. The nest, constructed by the female rosefinch, is cup-shaped and woven from grass and roots, and lined with fine rootlets and hair.
Rosefinch eggs are dark blue and speckled with rough, dark brown markings. One clutch is laid per year, typically containing three to six eggs.
Rosefinches are monogamous for one season but on rare occasions may mate with the same partner in subsequent years.
Incubation of the eggs is undertaken exclusively by the female rosefinch. Once the young have hatched, both parents share feeding duties of the nestlings.
The nest of a common rosefinch with four blue eggs inside
Rosefinches are active birds, with a reputation for being sociable and inquisitive, rather than overly aggressive or territorial.
Common rosefinches are migratory, although birds living towards the southern parts of their range do not usually migrate. Non-breeding populations of rosefinches are present in India, Myanmar, and south-eastern China in autumn, returning to breeding grounds further north by late spring.
A rare breeding bird in the UK, twite numbers have dropped dramatically in northern England since 1990, with only a handful of pairs remaining. Efforts are ongoing to revive the UK breeding population, with further pairs nesting in Wales and across Scotland, which is joined by migrants from northern Europe during winter months.
One of twenty species in the Spinus genus, Eurasian Siskins are small widespread finches with predominantly yellow/green plumage. Not uncommon in gardens in the winter, birdwatchers are most likely to encounter these agile little birds in coniferous forests and plantations.
Serins are the smallest European member of the finch family. Rare reports exist of breeding serins in isolated parts of the UK, and small numbers might be seen during migration passage each year, although sightings are not guaranteed.
Unique to the Caledonian pine forests of the Scottish Highlands, the Scottish crossbill is the UK mainland’s only endemic bird species that is not found anywhere else in the world. Visually, it’s relatively hard to distinguish Scottish crossbills from the two other crossbill species (common crossbill and parrot crossbill) found in the UK.
A rare breeding bird in Britain, found mainly in pine forests in the Scottish Highlands, the parrot crossbill is both the rarest and the largest of the three crossbill species found in the UK. Similar in plumage to the red crossbill and common crossbill, the key identifying features of the parrot crossbill lie in the shape of its head shape, its bill structure and the pitch of its song.
A seed-eating finch, widespread throughout much of the UK, linnets are a colourful presence on heathlands and scrublands, particularly in coastal areas or in hedgerows on agricultural land, where they feed on weed seeds, including dandelion and dock, around the edges of cultivated fields.
A tiny finch, only marginally larger than a blue tit, the lesser redpoll is an acrobatic streaky seed-eater, that can be seen all year round throughout Ireland, in much of Wales, northern England and parts of northern and central Scotland.
Britains largest finch, the hawfinch is unmistakable due not only to its size and light chestnut colouring, but mainly because of its giant, almost cartoon-like bill. They are fairly secretive birds, and with a maximum 1,000 breeding pairs in the UK, sightings would certainly count as memorable.
Identified by its distinctive yellow wing patches and wheezing call, the Greenfinch is a common garden bird throughout the United Kingdom.
The European goldfinch is common across southern England, and can frequently be seen feeding on the seeds of thistles, teasels and other scrubland vegetation.Goldfinches are enjoying a population boom, with garden visits reported to be up 70 percent on numbers seen 20 years ago.
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.
One of the smaller members of the finch family, the common redpoll breeds in northern latitudes and despite their tiny, fragile body size, can survive in bleak Arctic tundra landscapes.
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.
The Bullfinch is an unobtrusive but beautiful woodland bird, and an occasional garden visitor.
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