Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

The hawfinch is a mysterious bird, and one that often gets overlooked. It is a fascinating bird which can be found in parts of Wales and is by far the UK’s largest finch.

They have a distinctive top-heavy silhouette and are predominantly a rusty, orange-brown colour, with a dark brown back and a black patch at the base of the bill. They are extremely shy, spending much of their time hidden away high in the forest canopy and can be hard to spot.

With this in mind, here are five things you didn’t know about hawfinches.

1. Hawfinches have massive bills, which are powerful enough to split yew seeds, cherry stones and beechmast. The Hawfinch’s jaw can exert pressure a thousand times its own weight, equivalent to 150lbs per square inch.

2. Hawfinches have a flight call that is exceptionally weak and quiet, meaning it often goes unnoticed. The hawfinch flight call is a staccato ‘tick’, like a song thrush or robin. It’s a good way to locate these elusive birds, so it is worth knowing if you are hoping to find a hawfinch. Hear it here.

3. Hawfinches are on the red list (UK conservation status), meaning that they are of highest conservation priority, with these birds needing urgent action. Hawfinch numbers have declined in many regions as available breeding area have deteriorated. The RSPB have worked alongside other partners to identify the best conservation solutions to help hawfinches.

4. Hawfinches are among the hardest of all Welsh birds to spot. They breed year-round in some small parts of Wales but can be incredibly hard to find in the summer. They tend to be easier to spot in the winter, when there are more birds around due to continental migrants and fewer places for them to hide. Hawfinches are found in large areas of mature broadleaved woodland, favouring areas with open glades. Check out this article for tips on when and where to find them.

5. RSPB Cymru staff and volunteers have ringed over 800 birds at Dolgellau, with further ringing taking place down in Gwent. The Meirionnydd population of hawfinches, in north Wales, is considered one of the top five main populations in the UK. Ringing these birds will help us discover more about their movements and ensure they have a brighter future in Wales.
As well as being susceptible to loss of habitats, hawfinches have also been threatened by a disease called Trichmonosis. To help stop the spread of this disease, try not to feed garden birds or supply them with drinking and bathing water when you spot diseased birds. Remember the golden rule – it’s always important to keep on top of bird table and feeder hygiene, washing feeders and surfaces regularly.

To find out more about hawfinches and how you can help these intriguing birds click here.

Images (top to bottom): 

Ben Andrew (rspb-images.com)
Les Bunyan (rspb-images.com)
Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)