HAWFINCH (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)


The Hawfinch is the largest finch in the UK, weighing more than twice as much as a chaffinch. They are mostly restricted to England and Wales and can be found in mature broadleaf woodlands with open clearings. The best time to see them is during winter when their numbers are boosted by continental migrants. However, despite their size, they are very hard to spot, partly because of their low numbers, but also due to their elusive behaviour, singing quietly from high in the canopy.

Discover our Promises

Alert Status:


Estimated number of breeding pairs: 750

Listen to hawfinch song:


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

BACK to a-z

Hawfinch diet

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.

Hawfinch breeding and nesting information

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.

Threats to hawfinch

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.

How you can help

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.  

Fascinating Fact

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!
Download Fact Sheet
Discover our Promises


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

Woodward,I., Aebischer, N., Burnell, D., Eaton, M., Frost, T., Hall, C., Stroud, D.A.& Noble, D. (2020). Population estimates of birds in Great Britain and theUnited Kingdom. British Birds. 113: 69–104. https://britishbirds.co.uk

mag glass