The best identifier of this finch is its size, which is significantly larger than any other finch. It has a top-heavy figure due to its large neck, head, and bill. Its large bill used for breaking open seeds and fruit stones is a distinguishing feature. They are mostly brown, with dark brown back, with white and black wing feathers and an orange/brown head. Their belly is a buff colour with a clear black bib that circles the bill and eyes. Juveniles do not have clear black markings around the bib and eyes.
Average Length: 18 cm
Average Lifespan: 10 Years
Average Wingspan: 29-33 cm
Their diet mainly consists of fruit stones and large hard seeds which their bill has adapted perfectly to crack open. They can even crack open plumb, cherry, and olive stones. They will often feed in groups, especially in winter and sometimes supplement their diet with small invertebrates.
What to feed : Large hard seeds or fruit stones.
How to feed : Large garden feeders.
Hawfinches are monogamous and form bonds that last more than one year. The breeding season begins in March and both the male and female help build a flimsy nest up to 14m high. The female lays between 3 and 5 eggs but may sometimes lay more if the conditions are right. The female incubates the eggs for around 11-13 days, and after hatching they are fed by both parents for another 11-13 days before fledging. The parents support them for a further 30 days after fledgling. Unlike the adults, the chicks are mainly fed small invertebrates, likely because their bills can't crack large seeds yet. They usually only have one brood before the breeding season ends in August.
Tracking Hawfinch populations is difficult due to their elusive behaviour and the influx of individuals during winter. The threats to Hawfinches are not well known but their use of broadleaf woodlands with open areas suggests that habitat loss could be driving changes in adult and fledgling survival. Hawfinches also have a relatively high number of blood parasites which could be driving decreases in the breeding success of these birds.
Provide supplementary food during the winter
Ensure your feeders are clean and if you suspect an infection in your garden, stop feeding for two weeks.
Petition to protect broadleaf woodland across the UK.
The Hawfinch bill is incredibly strong and can exert over 150 pounds (68kg) per square inch which is enough to crack open olive and plumb stones!
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/hawfinch-coccothraustes-coccothraustes. Accessed: 28/08/2023
British trust for ornithology (2023) Hawfinch | BTO - British trust for ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/hawfinch. Accessed: 28/08/2023
Kirby, W. B., Bellamy, P. E., Stanbury, A. J., Bladon, A. J., Grice, P. V., & Gillings, S. (2015). Breeding season habitat associations and population declines of British Hawfinches Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Bird Study, 62(3), 348–357. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2015.1046368
Kirby, W. B., Stanbury, A. J., Lewis, J., Smith, D. L., Cross, A. V., Grice, P. V., & Bellamy, P. E. (2018). Nest survival, causes of failure and productivity of British Hawfinches Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Bird Study, 65(3), 279–289. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063657.2018.1506424
RSPB (2023) Hawfinch bird facts: Coccothraustes Coccothraustes, The RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/hawfinch/ (Accessed: 28 August 2023).
Valkiūnas, G., Iezhova, T. A., & Shapoval, A. P. (2010). High prevalence of blood parasites in hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Coccothraustes Coccothraustes , Journal of Natural History, 37, 2647–2652. https://doi.org/10.1080/002229302100001033221