In summer plumage the male greenfinch is a handsome bird with its apple green body and contrasting yellow stripes and flashes. Adult greenfinches are stocky birds with a distinctive greyish pink, large and chunky triangular beak, ideal for breaking open larger grains and nuts.
Overall, the male is olive green in colour with brighter yellow or yellowy green on the outer parts of its short forked tail, rump and edges of its grey wings. There is a dark area running from the top of the bill towards the eye. Primary feathers are dark grey and the tail has a black central bar running from the rump to the tip and across the base of the tail. The cheeks of the bird are pale grey.
During winter months the male loses his yellow-green colour and has predominantly mottled light brown underparts with darker plain brown uppers. The female is duller than the male with less yellow colouration and the juvenile paler still but browner than the adult bird with the addition of streaks on its back and flanks.
A Greenfinch in flight
Whilst females will sometimes vocalise the singing is mainly left up to the males. A common ‘teu – teu – teu’ or high pitched ‘tsweee’ interspersed with a rather tinny sounding ‘chi – chi – chi’ all makes for a noisy though not unpleasant chatter.
Calum Mckellar, XC614194. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/614194.
A pair of Greenfinches on a sunflower
A particularly unpleasant parasitic disease known as Finch Trichomonosis is now prevalent throughout the UK and in particular affects greenfinches and chaffinches to the extent that their numbers have reduced. The disease which is passed on by infected finches can be spread on bird tables and bird baths (thereby infecting others) and manifests itself in the back of the throat thus preventing the bird from feeding properly. Signs of lethargy and ‘fluffed up’ feathers together with excess dribble around the bill are indications of those possibly infected. Whilst the disease can also be spread in the wild, regular cleansing and disinfection of garden bird feeders and baths will help in eliminating this disease.
The strong chunky bill, an indication of a voracious seed eater, illustrates the bird’s favoured diet. The greenfinch feeds from plants and trees as well as foraging on the ground for seeds, berries and nuts and is particularly fond of garden feeders and bird tables where it is partial to peanuts and sunflower seeds.
For a more in-depth guide on what greenfinches eat, check out this article.
Juvenile Greenfinch being fed by parent
Greenfinches are common throughout the UK apart from the highlands and the far north of Scotland. Their preferred habitat is woodland, farmland and urban and suburban gardens and parks, in fact anywhere there are shrubs or trees which is why you are unlikely to spot them on treeless fells or barren uplands.
Often confused with the Siskin, careful observation should make easy identification possible. Although the siskin has plumage of a similar colour to the greenfinch the siskin has a bold black cap and bib and black and yellow wing bars neither features of which are present on the greenfinch. Whilst found squabbling with other birds at garden bird feeders greenfinches are also often seen in large feeding flocks.
Back view of Greenfinch
The female builds a nest of grass and twigs lined with hair and feathers in trees or thick bushes and will normally produce one or two broods consisting of 4 to 6 eggs in each annually between April to July. The eggs are pale beige with black spots and hatch after around fourteen days. Whilst the female alone incubates the eggs, once hatched the chicks are fed by both parents.
Check out this guide on greenfinch nesting.
Greenfinch nest with eggs
Greenfinch chicks in nest
The lifespan for greenfinches averages between two to three years.
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