RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor shares five facts about bullfinches.
Five facts about bullfinches
They are beautiful and boldly coloured
Male bullfinches have a quite bright rose-pink breast and cheeks. They have quite a striking black cap and tail, a grey back and white rump. Females have a duller pinkish grey breast. The size and shape of a bullfinch is also quite recognisable - they are quite compact and plump birds and appear 'neckless'.
Bullfinches are introverts
Despite the bold colouring which might make you think otherwise, bullfinches are often described as shy and secretive. While they are occasionally spotted in gardens, they're still a fairly uncommon garden visitor. Often the only clue that they are about may be a flash of white from their rump feathers as the birds slip out of sight...
The call matches their behaviour
Another clue that a bullfinch is nearby could be a quietly mournful warble. Like their behaviour, the call of a bullfinch might also be perceived as shy. They have a soft and subtle song which can sound hesitant, particularly at a distance.
Given their understated call it might seem odd that they were once famed for their voice. It was very trendy once upon a time to train them so they would mimic a special 'bird-flute'. This trend gets a nod in the novel Tess of the d'Urbevilles where one of the daily chores is to whistle to bullfinches.
The only finch with a special food sac
Bullfinches have a unique sac in the floor of their mouth that can be used to store food! This allows them to forage at greater distances when feeding their young.
Enemies of (16th century) Parliament
Bullfinches feed on seeds, buds and shoots. Because they were considered a threat to fruit trees, an Act of Parliament in the 16th century declared that a bounty of one penny would be paid for 'everie Bullfynche or other Byrde that devoureth the blowth of fruit'
And Bullfinches can also flock in winter - I saw a dozen or so togther at Dawyck last winter. Mikie Betts
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