Alert Status: Red - 72% decline
Identifying Features: Short tail with a fork; in summer the male has a crimson forehead & breast.
Average Length: 13.5 cm
Average Lifespan: 2 Years
Average Wingspan: 21 - 25 cm
Beak type: Seeds
Natural: Small seeds and insects
How to feed: Ground feeders
What to feed: Mixed Seeds
Nesting: Heaths, scrublands, hedgerows & gardens. Cup nest made of grass, moss & twigs lined with hair.
Where to see: Commons, heathland, rough ground, farmland hedges and in parks and gardens; usually found on the east coast.
Both male and female linnets have a chestnut mantle and whitish underparts, with brown streaks. The bill is grey and the legs are pale brown. Males are attractively marked with a striking raspberry coloured breast and forehead, looking much brighter during the summer months.
Juveniles are similar to the female adult, although paler and with bolder streaking. The bill and legs are pale grey with a yellow or pink tinge.
Linnets can be seen all year round, over much of the UK, although they are scarce in the higher regions of North West Scotland. Look out for them on farmland, heathland, saltmarshes and wasteland. You may well be able to entice them to your garden, if you have some good, dense hedges and bushes!
Breeding between mid-April and early August, the female will collect materials such as twigs, roots, moss and plant matter to build her bowl-shaped nest, finally lining with fur and feathers. Her trusty partner will guard her whilst she builds, choosing somewhere close to the ground, concealed in a dense hedge or a thorny tree.
Linnets lay 4-6 smooth, pale blue eggs, which are marked with purple and brown. The eggs are incubated for 11-13 days by the female and the male will feed her during this period. Both adults will care for the chicks, and the chicks will depend on them for a further two weeks after fledging.
Linnets and their chicks rely almost entirely on seeds throughout the year. During the winter, adults will favour stubble and field margins where weed seed and split grains are abundant. Dandelion seeds in pasture are particularly important.
Their common name comes from linseed, which is the seed of Flax, while their Latin name, L.cannabina, refers to Hemp.
Linnets are generally sociable birds and will form large flocks with other linnets and siskins outside of breeding season. They have a distinctive undulating flight, and will generally make a twittering noise as they fly in their flocks.
Linnets have a life expectancy of two to three years.
Did you know? The linnet’s singing voice is very melodious, so much so that they were once popular cage birds! Listen out for fast trills and twitters, which can help you to identify them.
Philip M. Raskin - 1880-1944
Have you heard the linnet trilling,
To discover did you try
What is hidden in her carol—
Does she sing or does she cry?
I am singing like the linnet,
When my heart does pine and long;
Love, and pain, and joy, and sorrow,
All are hidden in my song