Identified by its distinctive yellow wing patches and wheezing call, the Greenfinch is a common garden bird throughout the United Kingdom.
The Greenfinch is a small, stout bird with a cone-shaped bill and a forked tail. Males, in particular, live up to their common and scientific name (Chloris means greenish-yellow) with an olive-green overall appearance. Both sexes have yellow stripes along the sides of the tail and wings.
Males aren’t all green. They have brownish backs and large grey patches on their flanks, wings, rump, tail, and cheeks. Their bill and legs are pinkish, and they have small dark eyes.
Female Greenfinches are similar to males but duller overall with a greyer bill and back. They have little to no green plumage, being generally brown and grey with yellow on their wings and tail. Faint yellowish plumage is often present around the eyes, shoulder, lower back, and belly.
Juveniles appear similar to adult females but have a more streaked appearance, particularly on the breast, belly, and mantle.
Greenfinches are most likely to be confused with the smaller Siskin. Read this comparison guide to learn how to tell them apart.
Greenfinches are small songbirds about the size of the House Sparrow.
Adults measure 15 to 16 centimetres from tail tip to bill.
These birds weigh 17 to 34 grams, with an average weight of about 27.5 grams or just under an ounce.
The typical wingspan is approximately 26 centimetres. Although unnoticeable, males have slightly longer wings on average.
Greenfinch sitting in a conifer tree
Greenfinches produce various short, sharp calls in alarm or to maintain contact. However, their most characteristic calls are a rising ‘juwee’ alarm call made by both sexes and the males wheezy ‘dzeeeer’ territorial call with a slightly mechanical quality.
Males produce a variable song with warbled, trilled, and buzzed notes, typically from a high perch or during display flight. Listen out for this pleasant but disjointed song from January to the end of summer and particularly from March to July.
Greenfinch perching on top of a moss-covered post
Greenfinches are primarily vegetarian, although they will feed on insects in the warmer months. These birds forage everywhere from the ground to upper tree branches for seeds, flowers, buds, and fruits of a great many plant species, including bramble, yew, and rosehip.
Greenfinch chicks eat insects and regurgitated seeds provided by both parents. They are fed in the nest for 14 to 18 days and then for a further two weeks after fledging.
Greenfinches regularly visit bird feeders where their somewhat pugnacious attitude can make for entertaining viewing. They are seed-eating birds that enjoy everything from peanut hearts to niger seeds.
Read this guide to learn more about the Greenfinch diet and what you can feed them in your garden.
Greenfinch adult feeding its young
Greenfinches use various habitats, including suburban gardens, farmland, woodland, plantations, and orchards. They avoid treeless, high-altitude environments in the United Kingdom.
Six Greenfinch subspecies are distributed across Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. These birds occupy most of Europe, except for the far north. They are widespread in the United Kingdom and Ireland, absent only from high-lying regions of Wales and Scotland.
Greenfinches have adapted very well to human-altered environments like farmland, suburban areas, and even parks and gardens in urban centres. While they still occupy wilder habitats like forests and woodlands, much of the UK Greenfinch population now live alongside us in villages and towns.
Greenfinch populations have varied drastically over the last 50 years, but the net result is a serious decline of nearly 70%. They are still common resident birds, with an estimated population of approximately 785,000 pairs in 2016.
Greenfinches are widespread in the UK, and many birdwatchers may not even need to leave their home to see these common garden birds. However, an outing to a wooded park, local woodland, or farmland with hedgerows may also be productive.
Greenfinch in woodland habitat
Greenfinches have a typical lifespan of just two years, although the record stands at over eleven years for a wild bird.
Greenfinches are vulnerable to various small carnivores, ranging from birds of prey like the Sparrowhawk to mammals like Foxes and Domestic Cats. Rats, Magpies, Jackdaws, and Gulls prey on their eggs and chicks.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 protects Greenfinches in the United Kingdom.
Greenfinches are a ‘Least Concern’ species on the IUCN Red List, and their populations are thought to be stable. While they appear safe globally, these birds suffered drastic declines in the United Kingdom during the mid-2000s and are now red-listed here.
Greenfinch populations in the UK suffered due to an outbreak of a parasite-caused disease called Trichomonosis. The disease causes damage to the back of the throat, resulting in difficulty in feeding and drinking and, ultimately, death from starvation.
This parasite can be spread from one infected bird to another when they share food at bird feeders, so good hygiene and regular disinfection are essential at bird tables and feeders.
Greenfinch in suburban garden
Greenfinches build their nests within dense vegetation like conifers, hedges and large shrubs. Pairs may nest alone or in colonies with others nearby. The female constructs a cup-shaped nest from plant material like grasses, twigs, and moss.
Greenfinches produce two broods each year, typically beginning in March and ending by August. Check out our complete guide to Greenfinch nesting to learn much more.
Greenfinches usually lay four to six lightly blotched and speckled eggs with a pale brown, greyish, or blueish background colour. Their eggs measure about 15 millimetres wide and 20 millimetres long.
Greenfinches select a new partner each year. They are generally monogamous, although males may mate with up to five females.
Nest of a Greenfinch with six eggs
Greenfinch chicks in their nest
Quarrelsome around feeders, the Greenfinch will fight with other birds, including its own kind, around bird feeders and other food sources. Away from food, they are non-territorial and may nest in loose colonies. They are particularly gregarious in winter when flocks of over a hundred may be seen.
Greenfinches sleep in trees, hedges, and large bushes that provide protection from ground predators and the elements. They roost communally in winter, sometimes in large flocks.
Flock of Greenfinches feeding together
Greenfinches are present throughout the year in the United Kingdom, and most do not move more than about 12 miles or 20 kilometres. However, they are migratory elsewhere in their range, and the local population is joined by birds from northern Europe each winter.
Greenfinches are native to the United Kingdom. They were introduced outside their natural range in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Uruguay.
Greenfinch during the cold winter months
Greenfinches are regular visitors to garden bird feeders, where they relish sunflower seeds and peanuts. You can also attract these boisterous back-garden birds by setting up a birdbath or other shallow water features for drinking and bathing.
Greenfinches are particularly vulnerable to a parasitic disease known as Trichomonosis, which spreads easily at bird feeders. Replacing old food and cleaning your bird feeder regularly with disinfectant can help to curb the spread and keep your garden birds happy and healthy.
15cm to 16cm
17g to 34g
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.
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.
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.
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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