All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

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!

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

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.

juvenile chaffinch
Juvenile Chaffinch

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.

All About Garden Birds: Chaffinches

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.

chaffinch perching on a tree branch

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.

chaffinch pecking at the ground

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.  

Conclusion

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:

Robins

Collared Doves

Blue Tits

Goldfinches

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

Often kept in captivity in the 19th century due to their bright colouring that attracted a great deal of human attention, the goldfinch is thought of as one of Britain’s most attractive wild birds. To find out everything you need to know about goldfinches, as well as how to attract more to your garden, read on.

Goldfinch perching on branch

What Do Goldfinches Look Like?

The goldfinch is a vibrant and uniquely coloured wild bird, making it easy to spot in your garden. It has a black and white head with a red face. The body is buff to chestnut brown, with black and yellow patches on the wings. Males and females are very similar in appearance, with the female having a slightly smaller red patch on its face.

Two Juvenile Goldfinches
Two juvenile goldfinches

Juveniles have different colouring from adult birds. They have a plain face rather than a red face and a grey body. However, they still have the unmistakable black and yellow wing stripes.

Are There Different Species of Goldfinch?

The European goldfinch, Carduelis carduelis, is a species of bird from the genus Carduelis, part of the finch Fringillidae  family. The species is not to be confused with the American goldfinch, which is part of a different genus. There are 12 species of finch which inhabit the UK, including the chaffinch which we will cover further on in this blog series.

Goldfinch opening it's wings

There are 14 different subspecies of the European goldfinch. The subspecies found in the British Isles is the C. c. britannica.

Where & When Will I See Goldfinches?

Goldfinches are more abundant to the southern England, although are found throughout the UK aside from parts of the very northern parts of Scotland. The birds can be spotted all year round, however some flocks may migrate south during the colder winter months.

Goldfinch on tree

Orchards, gardens and heathlands are just some of the environments goldfinches will inhabit. More generally, they will be present wherever there is rough thistled ground and scattered bushes.

When Do Goldfinches Breed?

Goldfinches breed later than most wild birds; breeding begins in late April and continues until August, but can go on until September if it is still mild. On average, goldfinches attempt 2 or 3 broods, with clutch size spanning from 3 to 7 chicks. Males and females share parenting duties throughout this time.

Goldfinch perched alongside flowers

The male goldfinch attracts a mate by putting on a unique display, involving characteristic mating calls and swaying from side to side. After attracting a mate, nesting will start. The female takes on the role of building the nest, which will usually be sited in a tree or shrub. Nesting materials include grass, mud and roots and the nest will be lined with softer materials such as moss and cobwebs to insulate. The outside of their nest is often adorned with lichen in order to camouflage it from predators.

Eggs are pale blue and lightly speckled. Once laid, they will be continuously incubated for 10 to 14 days by the female. Once hatched, the chicks will be fed regurgitated seeds and plants by both parents. They will fly the nest after about 15 days.

What Do Goldfinches Eat?

Goldfinches mainly feed on seeds, and are especially fond of nyjer. If you want to put out nyjer seeds in your garden, ensure you buy a feeder specially designed for these smaller seeds, as they will fall out of regular seed feeders. Sunflower hearts are also a favourite.

Feeding goldfinches

Goldfinches also feed off seeds of small plants, such as dandelions and groundsel. The long, slim shape of their beak also makes them experts at feeding on thistle. Planting teasel, which has an attractive pink flower that is also appealing to bees and butterflies, will provide an extra source of food for goldfinches too.

As they eat mainly seeds, goldfinches need to drink more water than other species of wild birds. Ensure you provide a fresh water source, such as a bird bath or water feature. If you have a cascading waterfall in your garden, don’t be surprised to see goldfinches enthusiastically bathing in it!

Be sure to stay tuned for the next instalment of this series, where we will take a look at starlings. If you missed the last in the series, be sure to check it out, as we examined the collared dove which is a lesser known species of garden bird.

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

All About Garden Birds, Animals, Birds, Megan, Wildlife

In the February instalment of our blog series on garden birds, we will be taking a look at the Eurasian collared dove. A frequent visitor to many gardens, collared doves are found throughout the UK after the species spread rapidly northwards from the middle east from the 1950s onwards. To find out everything you need to know about this common British garden bird, read on.

Collared Dove Perching

Are Collared Doves Just White Pigeons?

When one thinks of pigeons, what comes to mind are the large grey birds you see picking at discarded food on the street. These are, in fact, feral pigeons. Collared doves, (which we are examining here) and feral pigeons are both from the Columbidae bird family. This family consists of 310 different bird species, characterised by stout bodies and short necks.

Collared Dove

Referring to the more general terms, the words “dove” and “pigeon” do not exist in most languages, and dove and pigeon are often used interchangeably in English. Pigeon is a French word that derives from the Latin pipio, for a “peeping” chick, while dove is a Germanic word that refers to the bird’s diving flight. In terms of identification in ornithology, doves refer to smaller species, and pigeons to larger ones.

What Do Collared Doves Look Like?

Collared doves are pale grey-buff to pinky-brown in colour, with a characteristic black neck collar (as their name suggests). In juveniles this collar is less distinct. Their eyes appear to be black, but up close the iris is red in adults and brown in juveniles. There no visible difference between the male and female.

Collared Dove

The Eurasian collared dove forms part of a superspecies of collared doves along with the island collared dove of southeast Asia and the African collared dove of sub-Saharan Africa.

Where & When Will I See Collared Doves?

Collared doves are non-migratory birds, so you will see them in Britain all year round. They are often found around towns and villages and are frequent visitors to gardens. Non-native to the UK, the collared dove arrived in Norfolk in the 1950s. Since then it  has naturally spread itself throughout Britain, rather than being manually introduced. This is down to juveniles dispersing far and wide from where they are born.

Bird Feeder on Tree

When Do Collared Doves Breed?

For collared doves, breeding begins as early as February and continues until as late as October. On average, collared doves lay about 4 clutches a year consisting of 1 or 2 eggs. Males and females share parenting duties throughout this time.

After attracting a mate, the male collared doves shows the female potential nesting sites, giving a distinctive monotonous call at each one to seek approval. Sites will be high above the ground, and in most cases close to inhabited buildings where food sources are abundant.

Collared Dove Pair on Branch

Once a nesting site is chosen, the male will bring the female twigs, grasses and roots to build a nest. The nest is a simple platform, that will be built over 1 to 3 days. Other nesting materials may include feathers, wool and string and the nest may be renovated for subsequent broods during the breeding season.

Eggs are a simple white, and once laid the female will incubate during daylight hours, allowing the male to incubate overnight. The incubating process continues for 14-18 days before fledglings hatch. Collared doves are one of the few birds that product ‘crop milk’, which is a substance produced in the crop, where food is stored in the body. The ‘milk’ is then regurgitated and fed to the fledglings.

What Do Collared Doves Eat?

Collared doves are herbivores, and their diet consists mainly of seeds and grains. They will also feed on buds, shoots and berries. Dependence on seeds and grains are one of the reasons the collared doves nest so close to areas inhabited by humans. The birds are not fussy about what seed or grain they eat. Doves digest the husks rather than removing them so there is no need to pick a husk-free mix.

Collared Dove

Collared doves are ground feeders, similar to the robin. They will only feed off bird tables and ground feeding trays, or trays secured to bottom of bird feeders where there is a platform for them to perch.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the common but lesser known Eurasian collared dove. Keep a lookout for our next instalment of this series, where we will examine the goldfinch.

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.

Animals, Megan, Ponds, Wildlife

Whether you have a pond, or you’re thinking of building a pond in your garden, you may be wondering about the wildlife ponds attract. Pond are rich habitats for all sorts of wildlife. To find out more about the pond wildlife you may spot in your garden, read on.

Pond Wildlife

Frogs

The common frog is one of the most recognisable types of pond wildlife you will find taking a dip in your pond. Long, striped legs and smooth, moist skin characterise the common frog, which are found throughout the UK in damp habitats. They are active throughout most of the year, only hibernating during the colder winter months. Frogs are carnivores and their diet consists of insects including flies, mosquitoes and dragonflies.

Pond Wildlife - Frogs

Toads

Toads are distinguishable from frogs by their skin, which is dry and warty in appearance. They travel by crawling rather than hopping and are larger than the common frog. Although especially found in wet locations, toads can also inhabit open countryside and other dry areas well away from standing water. Toads are nocturnal, so you are unlikely to see them until dusk, when they venture out often travelling great distances to hunt. A toad’s diet consists of insects and they have even been known to consume small mice.

Pond Wildlife - Toads

Newts

There are three species of newt that are native to the UK: the great crested newt, the palmate newt and the smooth newt.

The great crested newt is the largest, measuring up to 16 cm in length. Appearing almost black, they are actually dark grey-brown and covered in darker-coloured spots. You are most likely to spot them during the spring breeding season, as they spend the rest of the year in woodland and grassland. Great crested newts are the least widespread of newt species in the British Isles, and are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Pond Wildlife - Newts

In contrast, the palmate newt is the smallest of UK newt species. Olive-brown in colour, they prefer shallow ponds and are active during the daylight hours. Fascinatingly, the females lay their eggs individually and wrap them in leaves of aquatic plants to protect them.

Very similar in appearance to the palmate newt, smooth newts are species you are most likely to spot in and around your garden pond as they are the most common newt in the British Isles.

Invertebrates

Harder to spot because of their size, garden ponds can be home to a wide variety of invertebrates including:

  • Dragonflies
  • Mayflies
  • Snails
  • Water fleas
  • Pond Skaters
  • Water beetles

Pond Wildlife - Dragonflies

All of these species are important parts of the ecosystem, playing roles as both prey and predators. Many feed on algae and aquatic plants and others, such as dragonflies, are carnivorous and feed on smaller insects.

Birds

Most smaller garden ponds are too small for wetland birds such as ducks, swan and geese. However, you may spot wild birds using your pond to bathe in or take a drink from. You can introduce sloping sides and logs to your pond to make it a safer environment for these birds. Adding pond plants and keeping up with general pond maintenance will also make sure there’s bountiful amounts of insects for insect-eating birds.

Wild Birds

One feathered visitor that may not be welcome to your pond is the heron. They mainly feed on fish, and often visit garden ponds looking for an easy meal. If you want to deter herons from your pond, you can take a look at our post on how to heron proof a pond.

Ponds are home to a wide variety of wildlife. If you are particularly fond of observing wildlife in your garden installing a pond is a no-brainer.

 

Megan at PrimroseMegan 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.

See all of Megan’s posts.