Welcome to our next post in our garden bird series. Today we will be taking a peek into the lives of chaffinches, one of the most common finches seen in British gardens. Their colourful plumage and loud song make the chaffinch unmistakable and unmissable in terms of bird watching. To find out more about the common chaffinch, read on!
What Does a Chaffinch Look Like?
The common chaffinch, latin name Fringilla coelebs, is a small passerine bird, or perching bird, that lies in the finch family, alongside goldfinches.
The male and female chaffinch both have white stripes on their tails and wings, but they differ greatly in colour. Males have strikingly coloured plumage, with a blueish-grey cap and copper underparts. The vibrant colours of the males’ feathers become even more pronounced during breeding season when they are attracting the more plain looking grey-brown females. Juvenile chaffinches resemble the female but are smaller in size.
Where Will I See Chaffinches?
Chaffinches are not migratory birds, so you will see it in the UK all year round. You will find them in woodlands, hedgerows and parks as well as in your garden.
The chaffinch is present in most of Europe, Asia and northwest Africa and was introduced from its native Britain to many of its overseas territories in the latter half of the 19th century. It is one of the most common and widespread birds in the finch family.
When Do Chaffinches Breed?
Males start defending their breeding territories as early as February, but breeding usually begins in late April. It is largely dependent on the Spring temperatures, occurring earlier in the south and later in the north. Breeding can continue until as late as July.
Mating begins by the male attracting a female to his territory with bird song. Three out of nine calls present in the chaffinch during the breeding season are courtship calls. The first two, “kseep” and “tchirp” are made by the male to facilitate pair formation and the last, “seep”, is a call that signals acceptance from the female. Interestingly, during the winter months when breeding is over, the number of calls diminishes from nine to only two for each sex.
Once paired, the female will build a nest with a deep cup in the fork of the tree. Nests are often very well camouflaged and difficult to locate to the untrained eye. Nesting materials include grass, moss, cobwebs and lichen, and the nest will be lined with feathers and rootlets.
Clutches typically consist of four to five eggs and are laid in the early morning at daily intervals. Eggs vary in colour, from off-white with brown spots to blueish-green. They are incubated for around 14 days by the female before fledglings hatch. Young are fed by both male and female before flying the nest several weeks later.
As chaffinches like to nest in trees, it is worth putting up a bird box that will help encourage breeding and may attract chaffinches to breed in your garden.
What Do Chaffinches Eat?
During breeding season, chaffinches feed mainly on invertebrates, feeding insects and caterpillars to their young. They search for their prey by foraging in trees and may even be seen catching flying insects in the air. Other invertebrates in their breeding season diet include spiders, earwigs and aphids.
Outside of breeding season, chaffinches eat seeds and also feed directly off of plants. They are ground feeders, so you are likely to see them feeding off seeds that have fallen around your bird table. You can always invest in a ground feeder too if you would like to see more chaffinches in your garden.
We hope you enjoyed finding out about chaffinches in this post! Keep a look out for the next in this series, where we will be taking a deep dive into dunnocks. If you’ve missed out on any post in these series, check them out here:
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.