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 Chaffinch - Fact File
male (left), female
Fringilla coelebs
A common resident in most areas of Britain and Ireland. Scarce or absent from Shetland and Outer Hebrides.
Anywhere with trees or bushes from city centre parks to remote woodlands. Common garden birds.

Sparrow sized. Male is very distinctive, with blue-grey crown and nape and orangey-red breast and cheeks. Double white wing bars prominent at rest and in flight. Female is duller green-grey, rather sparrow-like but the white wing bars and slimmer shape make identification easier.

Vocal, with loud, descending song with final flourish, and a number of common calls, especially a loud 'spink'.
14 - 16cm (5.5 - 6.0 ")


For most people, a familiar and attractive garden bird. The male with his smart blue-grey and rusty-pink plumage is easily identified, and although females are duller, and can be mistaken for sparrows at first glance, the prominent wing bars and slimmer shape quickly dispel that error.

Chaffinches are among our most abundant birds, the last major survey by the BTO in 1988 - 1991 estimated over seven million pairs breeding in Britain and Ireland. They are also among the most widespread, being absent or scare only in the largely treeless areas of Shetland and most of the Outer Hebrides. Found in gardens, hedgerows, scrub and woodland, they have also adapted well to upland conifer plantations, thus increasing their natural range in the UK.

The loud, distinctive song of the male is hard to escape in spring and summer. Pairs build a neat nest, camouflaged with lichens and mosses, in the fork of a tree from late April, and usually raise one brood of 4 or 5 young. Incubation is for around 14 days by the female alone. Both parents feed the young, who fledge after 12 - 16 days.

Our own breeding birds are resident and largely sedentary, with birds rarely moving more than five miles or so from where they were born, although upland birds may move to lower ground in the winter.

In winter, our resident population is increased by large numbers of birds from the Continent, forming flocks on farmland, often with other finches, buntings and sparrows. One species always worth looking for in flocks of Chaffinches is the Brambling, a close relative of the Chaffinch which breeds in more northern areas of Scandinavia, with varying numbers of birds wintering here. They are most readily told apart from Chaffinches by their white rump.

Outside of Britain and Ireland, the Chaffinch is widely distributed throughout Europe and into Asia. Populations in north Africa form a disctintive race, with a green back and paler breast, and those from the Canaries have the blue-grey colour extending down the back.

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Illustrations by Dave Nurney from - The Pocket Guide to the Birds Of Britain and North-West Europe By Chris Kightley and Steve Madge
© Pica Press and reproduced with kind permission.