Member of Fringillidae (Finch) family
The Chaffinch is the UK’s commonest finch, and second commonest breeding bird. It has striking double white wing bars. It is found throughout the UK except for the Highlands and some islands. Being our commonest finch it is sometimes easy to overlook its beauty despite the male possibly having more colours in its plumage than any other garden bird.
The Brambling, a winter visitor to our shores is similar but has a white rump and all-black tail whereas the Chaffinch has white outer tail feathers in both sexes. They will often form mixed flocks in the winter but the Brambling’s white rump and Chaffinch’s white wing bars are diagnostic features.
The Chaffinch is well known for its “rain” call which is a repetitive short trill, and a loud “pink pink” call.
What They Eat & What You Can Offer Them
Chaffinches usually feed on seeds and during the breeding season insects, like caterpillars.
In gardens, they tend to forage on the ground for spilt seed from hanging feeders and they particularly like sunflower seeds and hearts. Chaffinches tend to avoid bird feeders, preferring to forage on the ground beneath bird tables, or under hedges. You may see them hopping around in these areas, or perched on branches.
If you regularly eat outside you may find them waiting by the table for stray crumbs that you may drop.
Where They Live & How You Can Help Them
The Chaffinches build a neat cup nest from moss, grass, and feathers bound with spiders’ webs, lined with feathers and wool, and decorated with lichen and flakes of bark. The nest is usually in a fork of a tree or shrub. Leaving hedges uncut may provide a nesting location.
The 4-6 eggs are laid in 1-2 clutches and take about 14 days to incubate.
In winter, the Chaffinch population increases with 10-20 million migrants from Scandinavia and Western Europe looking for food. These birds are usually found in large flocks on open farmland, whereas resident British birds are usually in woodlands and hedgerows. Typically it is the females that migrate while many males remain in northern Europe, giving rise to their scientific name ‘coelebs’, which means ‘the bachelor’.