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Bullfinch

Bullfinch

At a glance

Despite its striking colours, the Eurasian bullfinch is a reclusive bird so can be difficult to spot in its natural woodland habitat, although it will visit gardens in search of food. It is a thickset finch with a broad head and distinctive conical bill, and can look a little like a parrot when feeding. The population is in decline with a fall in numbers of nearly 40% since the 1970s. Factors contributing to the drop include the loss of trees and hedgerows in the countryside.

Key facts

Scientific name: Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Status: Resident breeding species

Breeding pairs: 220,000 pairs

Conservation status: Amber

Family: Finches

Length: 14 – 16 cm
Wingspan: 22 – 29 cm
Weight: 27 – 38 g
Typical lifespan: 2 years

What do bullfinches look like?

Adult male bullfinches have a blue-grey mantle, white rump, and black tail. The wings are black with a pale wing bar. The underparts are rose-pink with a white vent.

On the head the crown, nape, lores, and chin are black, the cheeks and throat are rose-pink, and the glossy crown is bluish-black. The short, conical bill is black, the eyes are black, and the legs and feet are pinkish-brown.

Female bullfinches have a grey-brown mantle and underparts, and pale pinkish-brown underparts.

Juveniles are similar to females but without the black cap. They have a buff wing bar.

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How do bullfinches breed?

Bullfinches breed from early May to mid-July and produce 2 or 3 broods a season. They are monogamous for life and they will often join together with other pairs to form a small group.

The nest is built on a tree branch, or in a bush or thicket, 1-2 m off the ground in scrub, hedgerows, thickets, arable areas, and parks and gardens. The female builds the nest along, which is a loose structure made from moss, twigs, and lichens, and lined with hair, moss, and roots.

Bullfinches lay 4-7 pale blue eggs with red-brown mottling, which are incubated for 12-14 days by the female who is helped and fed by the male. Chicks are fed with insects and seeds that are brought to the nest by the male. They fledge at 12-18 days and reach sexual maturity at 1 year.

What do bullfinches eat?

Bullfinches have a varied diet which includes seeds, weeds, insects, sunflower hearts, nuts, grain, berries and buds. Young bullfinches eat mainly live food brought to them by their parents. In gardens bullfinches can be seen hanging at a seed feeder or pecking at a suet cake. Their preference for the buds on trees meant general licences allowing the trapping and culling of bullfinches were available until relatively recently.

Bullfinch

Where can I see bullfinches?

Bullfinches can be seen all year round throughout the UK except the far north of Scotland. Look out for them in woodlands, thickets, orchards, and hedges.

What do bullfinches sound like?

Jens Kirkeby/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The bullfinch gets its name from its front-heavy, 
bull-headed appearance.

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4 Responses

  1. Just saw a bullfinch in my garden, I have never seen one in this area before. I stay in Cowdenbeath, Fife. (11am – 25/6/24)

  2. Seen my first bullfinch in the garden what a beautiful bird, we are in a small garden in West Wales.

  3. Saw a pair of bull finches in the trees of my garden in Sandiway, Cheshire. Beautiful bright orange plumage.
    28th Jan 2022

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