Alert Status: Green
Identifying Features: Mostly olive green with a yellow tinge to the underbelly with yellow to the outer wings. Usually brighter in summer.
Average Length: 15 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 Years
Average Wingspan: 25-28 cm
Beak type: Seeds
Natural: Seeds, wild fruit & berries
How to feed: Hanging feeders & bird tables
What to feed: Sunflower hearts, black sunflower seeds, seed mixtures
Nesting: Usually in colonies in dense shrubs, constructed of twigs & grass lined with fine roots & hair
Where to see: Common UK species found in woodland, hedges and gardens.
The greenfinch is a stocky finch, with a distinctly forked tail and a chunky flesh-coloured bill. Males are olive green with a yellow rump and a flash of yellow on the wings and tail. Females are subtler in colour, with less yellow on the wing and a brownish hue to the upper parts. During the autumn both sexes become duller in colour. Juveniles are browner and have a mottled pattern on the back and sides.
This finch is common in woodlands, farmland and gardens where there are plenty of trees and bushes but this hasn't always been the case. Originally greenfinches were confined to areas of woodland or forest edges and rarely ventured out into farmland or human habitation. While this is still the case in some parts of continental Europe, here they started to visit gardens in the early 1900s. This is probably because food provision in gardens has increased.
While greenfinches usually pair from late February, you may hear males singing as early as January
During the breeding season the male displays an elegant song flight, and its song is then very similar to the warbling of a canary.
Large nests are built by the female in trees and bushes using twigs, moss, roots, stems and sometimes feathers. The female will incubate her eggs by herself but both she and the male will feed their young.
The diet of a greenfinch is fairly varied. They will eat various seeds, flower buds, niger seed, insects, berries and nuts. Their powerful bills are used for breaking open seeds which they feed on throughout the year. They show some preference for seeds held within fleshy fruits, such as rosehips, though often ignore the fruit and just eat the seed. In winter when natural food sources are scarce, greenfinches rely on supplementary feed at bird feeders and tables. The discovery of seeds at a bird table can often provoke a feeding frenzy and a blur of yellow and green feathers can be seen as they compete for food!
Greenfinches will threaten other birds fiercely and often chase them away from bird feeders with their wings raised, tail fanned and bill wide open. Their yellow markings reinforce the visual threat helping to scare other species away. Without this additional food supply and given the massive decline in natural seed sources as a result of intensive farming, the current UK greenfinch population would almost certainly be much smaller.
In winter, they form flocks with other finches and can be seen roaming the countryside and parklands for food.
Most of the greenfinches that breed in the UK are sedentary, seldom moving far. A few, however, will travel much longer distances, spending their winters in Ireland or continental Europe. Individual birds may behave differently in different years, which suggests that the movements are driven by high breeding densities or food shortages during late summer, rather than annual weather conditions.
Although gregarious both in and outside of the breeding season (though more so outside), greenfinches are notorious for squabbling between themselves and other birds such as goldfinches. If the squabble is with another species then the greenfinch will normally win any dispute.
A group of finches has many collective nouns, including a "charm", "company", and "trembling" of finches.
Greenfinches are both brave and greedy so are skilled at hunting out bird feeders in both rural and urban gardens.
As well as being found in Europe, greenfinches also live in Australia and New Zealand, where they were introduced by English settlers to remind them of home.