The twite is a small brown finch about the size and shape of a linnet. They have brown backs with lots of lighter brown and dark streaking. They have a pale buff breast and belly with the streaking continuing on the breast, flanks, and throat. Their short beak changes from a grey colour in the summer to yellow in the winter. While males and females look very similar, the males can be identified by their pink rump.
Average Length: 14 cm
Average Lifespan: 6 Years
Average Wingspan: 22-24 cm
Twites only feed on seeds such as dandelion seeds, however, they are not known to use bird feeders.
The breeding season begins in April when a compact nest is built of plant fibres and roots, usually situated on the ground or within a few metres in dense vegetation. 5 to 6 eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 12 days before they hatch. The chicks are then fed by both parents until they leave the nest around 15 days later. Twites will sometimes produce a second brood before the breeding season ends in August.
The twite has been red-listed since 1996, declines in Scotland and Ireland have been driven by overgrazing and changes in agricultural practices which reduce food availability and degrade their habitat. As they nest low to the ground, direct damage to active nests can also occur from grazing animals, humans, and pets. Climate-driven changes in the weather such as drier and warmer summers are also thought to be decreasing the populations.
Be careful not to disturb active nests.
Keep dogs on leads during the breeding season if walking near a population.
Petition local areas to protect moorland and coastal breeding areas.
The Twite is named due to its distinctive nasal ‘Twi-eet’ call, it is also called the ‘Linnet of the North’ because of its preferred breeding areas.
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Linaria flavirostris. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/twite-linaria-flavirostris. Accessed: 09/10/2023.
British Trust for Ornithology (2023) Twite | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology. Available at: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/twite. Accessed: 09/10/2023.
Langston, R. H. W., Smith, T., Brown, A. F., & Gregory, R. D. (2006). Status of breeding Twite Carduelis flavirostris in the UK. Bird Study, 53(1), 55–63. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063650609461416
McLoughlin, D. (2009). The ecology of Twite Carduelis flavirostris in Ireland. Thesis from https://research.thea.ie/handle/20.500.12065/1428
McLoughlin, D., Benson, C., Williams, B., & Cotton, D. (2010). The movement patterns of two populations of twites Carduelis flavirostris in Ireland. Ringing and Migration, 25(1), 15–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/03078698.2010.9674409
RSPB (2023) Twite Bird facts | Carduelis flavirostris - the RSPB. Available at: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/twite/. Accessed: 09/10/2023.
Wilkinson, N. I., & Wilson, J. D. (2010). Breeding ecology of Twite Carduelis flavirostris in a crofting landscape. Bird Study, 57(2), 142–155. https://doi.org/10.1080/00063650903449938