The males are colourful with double white wing bars, a pinkish-peach breast with a blue-grey crown & nape. Our male chaffinch is cleverly adapted for camouflage whilst eating on the ground, only showing its green rump and brown back when looking from above. The flash of white on the underside of its wings add to its distinguishing features.
The female however is rather dull in comparison, having an olive green back and grey underparts. She has white wing bars which are narrower than the males. Juveniles look like females, with more subdued colouration.
Average Length: 14.5 cm
Average Lifespan: 2-5 Years
Average Wingspan: 24.5-28.5cm
.In summertime, like many songbirds, the chaffinch catches mainly insects, especially caterpillars to feed chicks. Year round they also feed on seeds, beech-mast, grain, and berries. They do some up to bird tables and love sunflower seeds, a firm favourite with chaffinches.
How to feed: Ground feeders and bird tables
What to feed: Mixed seeds, sunflower hearts and peanut granules
Breeding occurs from April to June, the nests are classically round, constructed with moss, webs, and grass, with a lining of feathers. These nests are constructed where they are expertly camouflaged against tree trunks, hedges, and bushes. The female produces one brood, with a clutch of 4-5 eggs being laid on consecutive days. The female will incubate the eggs for 12-13 days and they will fledge 13-16 days after hatching.
Though chaffinches have had a long-term increase in their population numbers, recently they have undergone a decrease thought to be related to trichomonosis. Reduced adult survival has been as the source of this decline, and the transmission of disease has long been linked to supplementary feeding at garden feeding stations. You can read more about trichomonosis on our wildlife diseases pages.
Keep your feeders clean and if you suspect there has been an outbreak of disease within your garden birds, stop feeding for a fortnight.
Keep a constant supply of fresh, clean water available year-round.
Planting large amounts of hedges, shrubs and trees will provide a great habitat.
Chaffinches have been found to have regional accents! Their song varies depending on where they are from, and they also prefer to learn songs from chaffinches that live further away, than from close by neighbours.
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Fringilla coelebs. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 20/06/2022.
Hanmer, H., Cunningham, A.A., John, S.K., Magregor, S.K., Robinson, R.A., Seilern-Moy, K., Siriwardena, G.M., Lawson, B. (2022) Habitat-use influences severe disease-mediated population declines in two of the most common garden bird species in Great Britain. Scientific Reports. 12(15055): https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-18880-8
Lachlan, R.F., Slater, P.J.B. (2003) Song learning by chaffinches: how accurate, and from where? Animal Behaviour. 65: 957-969.
Lawson, B., Robinson, R.A., Colvile, K.M., Peck, K.M., Chantrey, J., Pennycott, T.W., Simpson, V.R., Toma, M.P., Cunningham, A.A. (2012) The emergence and spread of finch trichomonosis in the British Isles. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 367(1604): https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2012.0130
Newton, I. (1964) The breeding biology of the Chaffinch. Bird Study. 11(1): 47-68.
Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: profiles of birds occurring in Britain & Ireland. BTO, Thetford (http://www.bto.org/birdfacts, accessed on 28 March 2022)
Stanbury, A.J., Eaton, M.A., Aebischer, N.J., Balmer, D., Brown, A.F., Douse, A., Lindley, P., McCulloch, N., Noble, D.G., Win, I. (2021) The status of our bird populations: the fifth Birds of Conservation Concern in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Isle of Man and second IUCN Red List assessment of extinction risk for Great Britain. British Birds. 114
Woodward, I., Aebischer, N., Burnell,D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D. & Noble, D. (2020) Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and the United Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104.