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Key facts

Scientific name: Fringilla montifringilla
Status: Winter visitor, occasional breeder

Breeding birds: 0 – 2 pairs

Wintering birds: 45,000 – 1,800,000

Conservation status: Green

Family: Finches

Length: 14 cm
Wingspan: 24 – 26 cm
Weight: 22 – 30 g

What do bramblings look like?

In breeding plumage adult male bramblings have a black mantle and upper back while the centre or the lower back and rump are white. The uppertail coverts are grey with brown tips. The scapulars and lesser coverts are pale orange. They have black upperwings with white median coverts and broad white tips on the greater coverts. The inner primaries have a white base which shows as a white patch when the wings are closed. The secondaries and tertiaries have pale buff edges and the tail is black.

They have an orange breast, upper belly and flanks with dark spots on the rear flanks. The lower belly and vent are white with some pale orange on the undertail coverts. The coverts on the underwings are bright yellow.

They have black heads with a pale orange chin and the conical-shaped bill is black or slate-grey with a black tip. The eyes are dark brown and the legs and feet are dark brown or black.

In non-breeding plumage male bramblings have mottled upperparts with brown edges and grey tips on the feathers. The scapulars have broad pale orange tips and the median and greater coverts are orange tipped with white.

The head is mottled, the nape and hindneck are pale grey, and the sides of the neck are slate-grey. They sometimes have a pale brown eye-ring.

In breeding plumage female bramblings resemble the non-breeding male but with paler plumage overall. In non-breeding they are paler still with diffuse spots on the rear flanks. The bill is horn-coloured and the legs and feet are brown.

Juveniles are similar to females but are browner with pale brown tips on the feathers of the upperparts. The rump and belly are tinged dull yellow.

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How do bramblings breed?

Bramblings mostly breed in Scandinavia and north west Russia, but have occasionally been known to breed in Scotland. Breeding takes place between May and early August

The female builds the nest which is situated high up in trees or occasionally in scrub or on the ground. It is cup-shaped made from moss, lichen, bark, heather, and cobwebs, and lined with feathers, soft grass, wool and hair.

Bramblings lay 5-7 smooth, glossy pale blue or olive brown eggs with darker markings which are incubated by the female alone for 11-13 days, although she is fed by the male. Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 11-13 days after hatching. They are sexually mature in their first year.

What do bramblings eat?

Bramblings eat seeds, berries, beech mast and insects. During winter they will forage on the ground through leaf litter, forming large flocks with other finches feeding on open farmland.

In the summer they will feed in low vegetation as well as trees and will also catch insects in flight.


Where can I see bramblings?

Bramblings arrive in the UK in September and leave again in March. Look out for them in woodlands and fields where they will form flocks with chaffinches and other finches. In winter they will visit gardens in search of food.

What do bramblings sound like?

Fernand DEROUSSEN/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Bramblings have unpredictable migrations and birds that winter in the UK one year have been found in Italy the next.

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