|Common Name:||Common chaffinch, chaffinch|
|Scientific Name:||Fringilla coelebs|
|Life Span:||12 years|
|Size:||14 to 16 cm, 20 to 24 grams of weight|
|Country of Origin:||Western Europe, Western Asia, Middle East, North Africa and the Macaronesian Islands in the Atlantic Ocean|
Common Chaffinch Information
The common chaffinch or simply the chaffinch is a very common small passerine bird that belongs to the finch family. It is widespread and known for its lovely singing voice. The male of the species has bright colors with a cute blue-gray cap and red underpants. Meanwhile, the female chaffinch has a duller color but also has white wing bars and white sides along the tail. The male uses his impressive singing voice to attract a potential mate.
The common chaffinch measures 14.5 cm long and has a wingspan of 24.5 to 28.5 cm. This bird weighs just 18 to 29 grams.
The male chaffinch has a black forehead and blue-gray crown, upper mantle, and nape. The rump is olive green; the lower mantle is brown saddle while the side of the head, breast, and throat has a dull rust-red that gradually change to creamy pink on the bird’s belly. The central tail feathers are dark-gray but with a black streak on the shaft. The rest is black but with outer feathers on each side with white wedges.
Each wing comes with a contrasting white panel along the coverts as well as a bluff white bar on the wing’s secondary and primary feathers. This finch has black flight features while the secondary and the inner primary feathers have pale yellow edges along with the outer web. The outer primaries come with white outer edges.
After the bird molts during autumn, the tips of its brand new feathers have a brown edge that makes the plumage look more colorful. These edges usually wear away during winter, and by spring, the underlying features are brighter.
The common chaffinch’s eyes are dark brown irises while the legs are brown-gray. During winter, the bill is grey and is slightly darker on the upper ridge, but in spring, the bill is bluish-gray and has a black tip.
The adult female has a duller appearance compared to the male. The bird’s head and most of its underparts are lighter. The rump and the lower back are olive-green but slightly duller. The tail and wings are similar to the male. Young birds look like female chaffinches.
The finch sounding call may have given the finch family its name in English. Males can sing two to three different songs, and experts have observed regional dialect varieties as well. William Thorpe, a British ethologist, studied how young chaffinches learn songs. Thorpe mentioned that if the chaffinch has not heard the songs made by a male during a critical time after hatching, then it will never be able to learn the particular song. Also, Thorpe found out that adult male chaffinches will not be able to sing again after castration. Also, taking testosterone can induce the male bird’s singing abilities even during November when these species are supposed to be quiet.
There are several subspecies of chaffinch described. These finches differ in their color and pattern of the adult plumage. The common chaffinch subspecies are divided into three, namely the coelebs group found in Europe and Asia, the spondiogenys group from North Africa, and the canariensis group from the Canary Islands.
- F. c. alexandrovi from Northern Iran found in 1916
- F. c. caucasia Serebrovski from the Balkans and northern Greece to northern Turkey, also in the central and eastern parts of the Caucasus and northwestern parts of Iran found in 1925
- F. c. coelebs from Eurasia found in 1758
- F. c. balearica from the Iberian Peninsula and the Balearic Islands discovered in 1923.
- F. c. gengleri from the British Isles discovered in 1909.
- F. c. sarda from Sardinia found in 1925
- F. c. schiebeli from southern Greece, western Turkey and Crete discovered in 1925
- F. c. solomkoi from the Crimean Peninsula and the southwestern Caucasus areas and was discovered in 1913
- F. c. syriaca from Cyprus, northern Iran, Jordan, and southeastern Turkey discovered in 1945.
- F. c. transcaspia from northeastern Iran and southwestern Turkmenistan discovered in 1916.
- F. c. tyrrhenica from Corsica found in 1910.
- F. c. Africana from Morocco to the northwestern area of Tunisia and northern Libya found in 1850
- F. c. spondiogenys from Eastern Tunisia and northwestern parts of Libya found in 1841 also known as the Atlas chaffinch
- F. c.canariensis from the central Canary Islands of La Gomera and Tenerife and Gran Canaria found in 1817.
- F. c. bakeri from the central Canary Islands of Gran Canaria found in 2018.
- F. c. maderensis from Madeira found in 1888 also called Madeiran chaffinch
- F. c. moreletti from the Azores found in 1859
- F. c. ombriosa from El Hierro, Canary Islands found in 1913
- F. c. palmae from La Palma, Canary Islands found in 1889 also called La Palma chaffinch
The common chaffinch can live up to 12 years. This is a very common bird species and is widespread. However, this can be vulnerable to herbicides and pesticides that can be found in seeds. Their main predators are domestic cats.
It is estimated that there are 130 to 240 million breeding pairs of common chaffinch in Europe. When the population of chaffinches in Asia is included, there are an estimated 530 to 1400 million birds. There is no serious decline in the population of this species, and thus it is classified under the least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
The chaffinch is usually caged as songbirds. In Britain, trapping of wild birds was prohibited by the Wild Birds Protection Acts of 1880 to 1896.
Chaffinches breed for the first time when they are just a year old. They are monogamous and will bond yearly. The date of breeding will depend on the temperature during spring and is usually early in the southwest parts of Europe and later the northeast. Most clutches in Britain are laid between the late weeks of April to the middle of June. The male attracts a female using a song.
Common chaffinch nests are constructed by the female and are found in the forks of bushes or trees meters above a tree. The nest is deep and is lined with roots and feathers. The outside is waterproof because of the female lines this with lichen and smooth spider silk.
The chaffinch female lays 4 to 5 eggs. The eggs are smooth and slightly shiny but may have slight variations in color. The color ranges from pale blue-green to light red with brown and purple spots and sometimes streaks of color. Eggs are about 19 mm x 15 mm and weigh 2.2 grams. The mother incubates her eggs for 10 to 16 days. The eggs are incubated only by the female.
The chaffinch chicks hatch naked, and eyes closed. These chicks are fed by the mother and father, but the female is the only one who broods around the chicks for about three weeks. The parents may start another brood, but they will do so in another nest.
Juveniles will soon experience their first molt after five weeks. Their furry heads and bodies will soon be replaced by feathers. And after the breeding season, the mother and father birds will undergo an annual molt that involves all the bird’s feathers. This will last ten weeks.
Common chaffinches feed in huge groups during winter. This allows them to take seeds to different gardens and farm areas. During the breeding season, the bird is very territorial. They feed on the ground and may eat together with sparrows and Fringillidae.
The bird may walk on the ground with short yet fast steps. They can also hop and fly from tree to tree. Common chaffinches may be resident in some areas or are migratory according to the range. Birds that are found in northern habitats usually migrate south during winter.
The territory is headed in January by the oldest male birds. Meanwhile, the young birds create their territories in February or a bit later. Young males may move from tree to tree and may come to the ground to feed.
The common chaffinch will return to the same territory year after year, and the males are aggressive and will chase away any intruders and even other larger birds. Females will arrive at the territory come March, and the partners remain together for six weeks before they breed.
The male chaffinch will perform courtship behavior, but the female may sometimes be aggressive. But despite this, the two feed on the ground together.
In-flight, the chaffinch performs an undulating movement. It will hover to the air before they fly. As they alight, they display their white patches on the wings and tails.
Common chaffinch prefers to eat small species of animals and a variety of plants, seeds, and fruit. Its diet is mostly seeds, berries, and small insects. As they eat seeds, they take these to different areas, and they leave their droppings in different places and thus helps transport seeds of various plants.
This bird also eats buds coming from deciduous trees, seeds, fruits, and berries. In the summertime, Common chaffinch will eat insects because these are very abundant. These birds will forage for food on shrubs and trees altogether. You may also see a group of them on the forest floor foraging.
Young hatchlings will require soft food than adults. Parents will feed them berries and small insects until these are old enough to leave the nest to forage their food.
Common chaffinch drink water from any water source. They may even drink water from a water fountain or a manmade pond.
To attract Common chaffinch in your garden, you can place a shallow basin to be used as a birdbath. These birds may stay on feeding trays and in birdbaths with other birds of the same species.
The common chaffinch lives in various woodlands may be deciduous or coniferous forests. It will choose open woodlands to build their nests; this is why it is a common species found in parks, gardens, orchards, cultivated areas, and hedgerows. But during times outside the breeding season, chaffinches disperse and will prefer to live and forage in open farmlands.
Captured Common chaffinches are mostly placed in large cages with the company of other finches. But as much as possible, you must leave feeder birds like finches, alone and let them forage for food in your yard or garden.
But if you must keep a chaffinch in a cage, the enclosure must be large to allow the bird to take short flights. Keep males and females together and if you want the pair to mate. You must also include live tree branches and shrubs inside the birdcage.
The enclosure must have a lot of perching areas and places where the birds can hide, sleep, and socialize. Since the common chaffinch is social, feeding trays should be large, and water dishes must be larger. The feeding trays should contain food that chaffinches prefer to eat, such as sunflower seeds and hemp seeds. Feeder birds should be placed in an area that will not be disturbed by other pets.
But as much as possible, leave the common chaffinch alone and never take one as a pet. This is because even if this species of birds are still available in good numbers in the wild, taking one from their natural area and placing it in a small enclosure is being cruel to this animal.
Availability – Where to Get One?
It is easy to spot local pet stores that sell common chaffinches. You will also find this bird from online pet stores. Some people catch or trap finches using homemade traps because this bird frequents their local area. Finally, this bird costs around $20 more or less depending on the gender, size, and the overall appearance of the bird.
How to Care for a Common Chaffinch?
A common chaffinch is a wild feeder bird that lives in woodlands but may also prefer to settle near human homes because they can easily find food and freshwater in these locations. If you find a chaffinch in your yard or garden or if you live near a coniferous or deciduous forest, then you can help these birds find food by scattering seeds or other food that they like.
One way to ensure that populations of the common chaffinch increase are to encourage homeowners to make bird feeders in their yards. Because these are small birds, a tube feeder or any narrow feeding container will do well. You may also use an old tray or some old frying pan to hold their food. Just leave the pan on top of a high structure, so the birds don’t have to come to the ground to feed. They can avoid cats, dogs, and other pets.
You may also hang the tray feeder up high where cats and other mammals can’t reach. Attract more birds by placing sunflowers because this is their favorite food. You may also add fresh fruits, dried fruits, and other kinds of seeds.
Commercial bird food is also a good idea but makes sure that these are organic and contain seeds that these birds will like.
Aside from the chaffinch food, place water trays or birdbaths in your yard or garden. If these finches come over during the wintertime, then you can install a heated birdbath. This is a unique accessory that’s similar to a heated dish or plate. Birds will surely want to wade, drink, and take a bath in heated water. Just change this water frequently and make sure that your electrical connections are safe.
Use a bird shelter and not a cage. This is a way to encourage finches from returning to your yard. You can use a ready-made wooden birdhouse that is readily available from a pet shop but make sure the opening can fit chaffinches. Take note that male birds are larger than most feeder birds.
But if you love to DIY and you have superb woodworking skills, and you have materials or tools at home, you may consider making your bird box or birdhouse. You can also find tutorials on how to make basic birdhouses online.
Since Common chaffinch prefers to build their nests on top of trees, you may install your handmade bird box or store-bought boxes at this height. But if you don’t have tall trees in your yard, then you can’t install birdhouses just anywhere. These finches will not be safe.
We recommend that you monitor the population of common chaffinches in your area. Create a journal, take photos, and shoot videos of birds that feed in your feeder and compare their numbers next season.
Can you keep a common chaffinch as a pet?
Yes, you can keep a common chaffinch as a pet, but why keep one as a pet when you can observe these common birds in the wild? Chaffinches are very common, and in fact, you can find these in almost all woodland or wooded areas and deciduous and coniferous forests.
How do you house captive common chaffinches?
A large cage where the bird can fly and can stretch out its wings is a good size cage. To observe these birds in your backyard, install a bird feeder, birdbath, or a birdhouse in your backyard, especially when common chaffinches frequent your area.
Can you keep many chaffinches in your home?
Yes, you can place the birdcage inside your home, but we recommend placing the cage on your porch, yard, or garden.
Can a cat prey on a chaffinch?
Yes, domestic cats are considered one of the top predators of common chaffinches. In the wild, these birds are prey to larger mammals, birds of prey and reptiles.
Can you feed chaffinches any type of seeds?
Yes, common chaffinches can eat almost any type of seeds. Finches love sunflower seeds but will eat almost any kind of seed that you serve them on a feeder.
Do chaffinches mate for life?
Yes, common chaffinches will mate for life. The male and female will mate almost every year and will separate themselves from the group during the breeding season.
Do chaffinches migrate?
Some common chaffinch species that live in cold areas will migrate to warmer places. Those who live in warm areas don’t but may move from tree to tree in search of new nests and more food.
Will a chaffinch survive the cold?
Chaffinches that live in cold areas tend to migrate south, so the food is plentiful, and they can also stay warm.
Where do chaffinches live in the wild?
Common chaffinches live in woodland areas and deciduous and coniferous forests. These are also found in human areas so they can have better access to food. You’ll find these birds in parks, gardens, yards, and even in human homes.
Are common chaffinch adults take care of their chicks?
Yes, the mother and father look for food to feed their chicks as soon as these hatches, but only the mother broods over her young.
How many eggs will a chaffinch female lay?
A female common chaffinch can lay up to 5 eggs. Usually, the female is the only one who constructs her nest and is also the only one who broods after her young when they hatch.
Why do chaffinches sing?
Male chaffinches sing to woo a female. Females can be receptive or may resist their charms, but the two will eat together and mate soon.
Will a common chaffinch abandon its nest?
No, common chaffinches will not abandon their nest, and mothers will remain with their chicks until these are ready to wean from her care.
What to do when you find an abandoned nest of a common chaffinch?
You can’t take a wild bird from the forest to take home. Call animal services to help rescue the chicks.
How do chaffinches escape predators?
Chaffinches are very aggressive, especially the males when it comes to territory and during the breeding season.