Find out all about the chaffinch with these five facts from RSPB Scotland’s Jen Mullen.

Five facts about chaffinches

  1. Chaffinches are one of the most widespread and abundant birds in Britain and Ireland

They are Britain’s second commonest bird after wrens. They came second in the 2019 Big Garden Birdwatch Scotland results and were spotted in over half of the gardens of those who took part in Scotland. There are between 1 and 1.5 million breeding pairs in Scotland and around 5.4 million pairs in Britain.

  1. You’ll usually hear chaffinches before you see them

They have a powerful voice and sing mostly between February and June. Their song is short and fast. It is a series of trills which get faster and lower, before ending with a flourish. Their call, which can be heard throughout the year, is a loud ‘pink, pink’. It is easy to tell when they are agitated as the call becomes sharp and short; I often think it sounds like they would be pointing their finger sternly, if they had fingers.

Female Chaffinch Credit: Andy Hay (

  1. They are recognisable by two white flashes on their wings

They are similar in size to house sparrows but slightly slimmer with a longer tail that has white outer feathers. Males have a pale blue head with a red breast, while females are a paler yellow-brown. Both have the distinctive white patterns on the wing – a white mark on the shoulder and a white stripe on the lower part of the wing. 

  1. Chaffinch nests are well crafted and camouflaged

They build neat nests in tree forks and camouflage the outside with moss and lichen. They breed in all types of woodland, parks and gardens.

Male chaffinch foraging on ground. Credit: Chris Gomersall (

  1. Chaffinches prefer to feed on the ground

It is rare to see chaffinches feeding openly on bird feeders. They prefer to feed on the ground, underneath the bird table or under hedges. They eat seeds from a variety of plants and in summer they feed on insects, especially caterpillars.  

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