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The chaffinch (scientific name fringilla coelebs) is a wild bird species that is a member of the Fringillidae family, which also includes the common sparrow, crossbill, and common linnet. The chaffinch can be found in large flocks all around northern Europe and Asia, and Northern Africa. You may often hear chaffinches singing, as it’s the most common garden bird in Europe and is found in gardens, parks, and even cities. It also lives in fields and forests and can easily be identified by its white outer tail feathers.

What Does a Male Chaffinch Look Like?

A male chaffinch on a cold winters day

The male chaffinch bird is about 8 inches long, including its short tail. It has a bright red head, a blue-grey crown, and a chestnut brown back with white stripes on its wings. He has a black beak, brownish-grey legs, and a greyish red or pink breast. There are also two feathers in his tail which he uses to keep his tail up, but he doesn’t have the special feathers on the sides of his neck as female chaffinches do.

The male chaffinch undergoes an exciting change in its appearance as it matures from a juvenile to an adult. The youth is olive-brown with a greyish head, while the adult has a red head and black body. This change occurs when the bird is about 16 weeks old.

What Does a Female Chaffinch Look Like?

A female chaffinch on a rock edge

The female chaffinch is less brightly coloured than the male. Her body is green on its wings, back, and head with grey-brown underparts. The tail is dark with a yellow centre stripe and no distinct bars or markings. Her orange eyerings are smaller, and their colour only extends an inch or two down from the beak. She has a brownish colour from her crown to her nape that fades to a yellowish hue at her neck and chest. Her bill is a dull, dark colour with a bluish gloss. It appears to be more yellowish than in most other garden birds.

How Do You Know If You Have A Male Or Female Chaffinch?

Males and females have similar characteristics in their plumage colourations but differ slightly when it comes to the size, weight, and shape of the bills.

You can identify a male chaffinch by looking at his tail. It has 2 distinct bars of colour and no tip. Males tend to have the yellow on their bill extend further down past their eyes. Also, he will be larger than a female. Females will have a plain green tail with no bars, and her eye rings will be shorter and not so bright as a male.

Why Does The Chaffinch Have Stripes On Its Wings?

A flying chaffinch

Chaffinches use their double white wing bars (and patterned plumage) to camouflage themselves when flying through fields or searching the ground for food. They can also use their wings for signaling to other chaffinches their location.

The stripes are sometimes formed of small white patches on the wing coverts.

What Do Chaffinches Eat?

Sunflower hearts

The common chaffinch (fringilla coelebs) is omnivorous. It eats fruits, grains, small lizards, and seeds during the summer months, but during winter it mainly eats berries.

Chaffinches may sometimes visit garden feeders, but being somewhat shy birds, they will rarely feed openly on hanging feeders. They mainly forage for seeds from the ground (e.g., sunflower seeds) and trunks of trees. They will also sometimes eat insects, particularly when their natural food sources are scarce. Some of their favourite seeds are bluebell, bird’s-foot trefoil, thistle, juniper berries, hawthorn berries, and sweet vernal cress.

Where Do Chaffinches Live?

Chaffinches are native to Europe and Asia. They were introduced into North America before European settlement and have become very adept at living here ever since.

Although often found in large flocks (especially during winter), chaffinches make their homes in small groups consisting of 3 to 6 birds. They tend to live in open woodlands and thickets where there is plenty of natural food for them to find. These wild birds are a hardy species and can withstand cold temperatures, making them good at remaining year-round in the wild.

Chaffinch habitats are generally temperate grasslands, woodland, and hedgerows where they can find plenty of berries, seeds, nuts, tree bark, sunflower hearts, and leaf buds to feed on. However, they will also be seen in parks, gardens, and wooded areas where they find bird food in feeding stations such as bird feeders stocked with seeds.

Where Do Chaffinches Nest?

Chaffinches build simple, open cup shaped nests of twigs and grasses. The chaffinches can select a spot to build their nest by observing the activity of other birds in their local area. They will also use the sun’s position to observe and judge where they should build their home. 

The chaffinch is a bird that is active during the day and then spends its nights singing on the lookout for insects or other food. Chaffinch nests are usually found dug into trees or walls, but most of those holes are made by woodpeckers, coots, or bats who receive benefit from being near human habitats.

Does The Chaffinch Sing?

A singing chaffinch
A common chaffinch singing

The chaffinch song is loud and beautiful. It’s one of the most musical of all birds, especially when breeding.

Male chaffinches are very territorial during the mating season, singing vigorously to defend their territory from rivals. The song of the male chaffinch is one of the more pleasant sounds in the garden. It has a song consisting of 15 different varied calls that it sings in order to attract females. The songs are composed of whistles, rattles, warbles, and trills that can last for as long as 30 seconds. Additionally, its small body size makes it vulnerable to attacks from hawks or cats, and its only defence is its singing which tells other Chaffinches that danger is near.

Chaffinch Breeding Season

The common chaffinch or simply the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) with a sunflower seed sitting on the old branch. Morning sun. Brown and yellow background.

Typically, chaffinches will breed from late March until late August when the sun is strong.

The breeding season of the common chaffinch bird can also depend on where they are in the world. In colder climes, such as Europe and Asia, they avoid winter and tend to breed in February and March. This is also when they will begin defending the breeding territories. In warmer areas, they tend to breed from late April to early August.

Once ready for breeding, the female will lay four or five eggs that she incubates for 12–14 days until they are hatched. The male will help by bringing food for her during that time.

After the eggs are hatched, the mother tends to their young, feeding juvenile chaffinches almost constantly while her mate provides her with protection. Though both parents feed the young birds when required.

Chaffinches are said to have a lifespan of 2–3 years in the wild and up to 10 years in captivity.

Sources and References

Chaffinch bird facts – rspb.org.uk

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