|Common Name||Eurasian Bullfinch|
|Scientific Name||Pyrrhula pyrrhula|
|Size||15 – 17 cm.|
|Mass||23 – 24 grams|
|Habitat||Mixed and coniferous woodlands, gardens, parklands, orchards|
|Range||Temperate Asia, Europe|
Information & Physical Description
Scientifically referred to as Pyrrhula pyrrhula, the Eurasian bullfinch is also known as common bullfinch. In Belgium, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Finland, Poland, the Netherlands, and Sweden, the Eurasian bullfinch is simply called “bullfinch,” and the reason for this is that the Eurasian bullfinch is actually the original bird to bear the bullfinch name.
This small-sized passerine bird is part of the family Fringillidae (the finch family), subfamily Carduelinae.
The Eurasian bullfinch is characterized by a bulky head, and a thick, short, black-colored bill. Reaching up to 17cm. in length, this bird’s wingspan is estimated at 25 cm., while the average weight attained by adults measures up to 24 grams.
The upper parts of the bullfinch’s body are grey in color. The flight feathers, face, and cap are black in color. However, in juveniles, the flight feathers, cap, and face are colored in greyish-brown.
Adult male Eurasian bullfinches have red underparts. In young birds, as well as in adult females, though, the underparts are grey-buff. Between July and October, the plumage moults, yet male common bullfinches, do not possess the same duller colored autumn plumage that can be seen in other finch species.
The wing bars and rump are white in color, thus, strikingly in contrast to the rest of the body when the birds are in flight, further contributing to their colorful, beautiful appearance.
The subspecies of Eurasian bullfinches described up-to-date include those inhabiting the British Isles (P. p.pileata), central and western Europe (P. p. europaea), south-central, eastern and northern Europe, central Asia (P. p. pyrrhula), north-west Iran, Turkey and Caucasus (P. p. rossikowi), the mountains of northern Portugal, south-west France and northern Spain (P. p. iberiae), Mongolia, China, north-east Kazakhstan and Siberia (P. p. cineracea), north-eastern China and the Russian Far East (P. p. cassinii), northern Iran and Azerbaijan (P. p. caspica), Korea, Japan, and Russian Far East (P. p. griseiventris).
Back in time, P. murina (the Azores bullfinch) used to be regarded as one of the subspecies of the Eurasian bullfinch. However, it has been reclassified and is now recognized as a separate species.
There are two close relatives of common bullfinches, namely the crimson-browed finch and the pine grossbeak, both being a part of the genus Pinicola.
The maximum age reached by a Eurasian bullfinch was recorded based on evidence of a captive specimen of 12.6 years of age.
Ecosystem & Habitat
Eurasian bullfinches are known to breed across temperate Asia, as well as across Europe. These birds are found in both natural, as well as man-made types of habitats. In general, the most commonly prefer coniferous and mixed woodlands; however, the bullfinches found in Britain and Japan are known to prefer deciduous woodland, and nonetheless, cultivated grounds.
For breeding purposes, in particular, these birds favor mixed woodlands consisting of conifers, among other trees, and gardens and parklands, too.
Even though Eurasian bullfinches are majorly resident, non-migratory bird species, those found in the northern parts of their natural range do migrate further south in the winter season in the search for milder temperatures and available food sources.
Food & Diet
Eurasian bullfinches are known to feed predominantly on the buds and seeds of different fruit trees. Because of their preferred type of food, these birds are often regarded as nasty pests in orchards.
However, these birds actually prefer to feast on the buds of woodland trees. The seeds are eaten exclusively in the spring season, as this is the time when they are abundant.
In early winter and in autumn, when fruit trees’ buds and seeds are not available, hawthorn and ash are highly favored.
In the case a wild bird cover is planted for these members of the finch family, it should be positioned right next to woodland or tall, woodland-like hedges, further keeping in mind that the preferred type of food sources include guinoa, millet, and kale.
The way bullfinches feed is by first masterfully landing on the very tip of a selected tree branch. Next, they slowly move up towards the trunk, and as they go up, they strip the delicious buds. It is crucial to note, though, that bullfinches are to attack buds as a last resort food source, since they prefer to feed on any seeds available from the previous autumn and summer, and only start eating buds when faced with very scarce to none seeds supplies left over.When it comes to the diet of bullfinches occupying deciduous woods, they are known to demonstrate a particular preference for ash, birch, nettles, privet, bramble, and dock seeds, with seeds remaining their major food supply up until buds, begin developing.
The perception channels of Eurasian bullfinches include visual, tactile, acoustic, and chemical channels. It is through these different channels how bullfinches manage to perceive their surroundings, as well as to communicate.
Outside the breeding season, Eurasian bullfinches do not form large flocks consisting of a big number of birds. Instead, throughout the year, they are typically seen in small family groups (also known as family parties) of several members, or in pairs.
It is in the spring when common bullfinches may sometimes form flocks that consist of approximately 50 Pyrrhula pyrrhula. Although rather rarely, these birds can form flocks that consist of more than 100 birds.
Eurasian bullfinches are not aggressive animals, but exactly the opposite – they have the reputation of being quite shy in general. These birds will rarely reveal their presence, as they prefer to perch within the perfect, natural cover of trees, and can be only occasionally spotted on the ground.
For those who are well-familiar with the “pipping,” low-whistle, penetrating song of these wonderful living beings, a simple hike in the forest within their natural range can be enough to reveal the presence of these feathery fellows nearby, so that the bird watch enthusiasts can enjoy observing the Eurasian bullfinches’ behavior in the wild.
Eurasian bullfinches’ nests are built in bushes that preferably measure more than four meters in both width and height. Also, nests are commonly built in trees, or mature scrub stands.
These birds are known to lay between four-five eggs on an average, and occasionally, they may lay up to seven eggs.
Interestingly, researchers have managed to identify that the sperm morphology of Eurasian bullfinches is quite unusual as compared to the sperm morphology of other Passeriformes birds, since bullfinches’ spermatozoa have a rounded head, and the acrosome is blunt.
Bullfinches’ nests are built out of fine twigs, with lichen and moss intertwined between the twigs, and are placed only a few feet above the ground level. The lining consists of fine black roots, as well as shrubs.The breeding season extends throughout early May and up to the middle of July, and it is within this period when bullfinches can lay up to three clutches of eggs.The chicks are to hatch out in two weeks on an average. They are fed a balanced combination of insects and seeds.Males and females share parental care and responsibilities, as males do not only assist females in incubating the eggs, but they also feed the females sitting on the nest. Later on, males will also help females when it comes to collecting food for young bullfinches.
Similarly to other passerine birds, Eurasian goldfinches may fall victim to papillomavirus, polyoma-like, as well as polyomavirus infections, protozoa, and avian bornavirus.
These birds may also suffer from parasitic diseases, with Atoxoplasmosis being the most common parasitic disease among captive passerine birds.
Availability – Where to Get a Eurasian Bullfinch
Female Eurasian Bullfinch – Image URL: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/Pyrrhula_pyrrhula_female_2.jpg
Although not widely kept as pets, it is possible to find Eurasian bullfinches available for sale from a limited number of bird farms, among other vendors, majorly based in the United Kingdom.
These birds can make suitable pets only for the well-versed bird care and breeding enthusiasts wishing to expand their existing collections of unique bird species. Always get well-familiar with the laws in your area of residence, as it may not be legal to keep particular bird species as pets, based on the potential caregiver’s area of residence.
1. It was all the way back to 1758 when the Eurasian bullfinch was first listed in the 10th edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Natura, and it was classified under the scientific name Loxia pyrrhula. The Latin word “pyrrhula” is actually of Greek origin, as it is derived from the word “πυρρός,” with πυρρός coming from “πυρ” – “pyrrha” – translating into “fire,” so “pyrrhula” stands for “flame-colored.” Aristotle also mentions the Eurasian bullfinch, calling it a “worm-eating bird.”
2. Because of bullfinches feeding on the buds of fruit trees, these birds have been historically deemed as pests, especially by orchard owners in south-east England. In the presence of a big number of Eurasian bullfinches, orchards that could potentially yield several tons of fruit have been estimated to only yield as little as a few pounds of fruit per harvest as the bullfinches are masters at efficiently stripping the fruit-producing buds. In fact, for centuries in England, it was the case that every parish would pay a bounty for every single bullfinch killed!
3. Consisting of fluted whistles, the Eurasian bullfinch’s song is commonly considered “mournful.” It is actually far more likely to see a Eurasian bullfinch than to hear it, as these birds’ calls, as well as males’ breeding songs alike, are very subtle and low.
4. When the seeds supplies run low in early spring and late winter, bullfinches turn to the fruiting trees’ buds, preferring flower buds over leaves as the buds are much more nutritious. A single bullfinch is capable of eating up to 30 buds in as little as a minute!
5. Due to their low-density occurrence, bullfinches are not at all overly territorial, even during the breeding season. Interestingly, it is unheard of to come across two adult Eurasian bullfinches sharing the same bird feeder.
6. Even though bullfinches do rarely breed in gardens, preferring the thick cover of trees to nest instead, an adult may be seen feeding at bird feeders since they are capable of traveling significant distances from the nest in order to find food because of the otherwise patchy food distribution. Additionally, these birds have developed curious, special food sacs, and are the only known species of finches possessing such sacs. The food sacs are positioned in the mouth’s floor, giving parents the opportunity to bring food back to their young chicks.
7. Eurasian bullfinches used to be very popular care birds at one point back in time, and that was major because of bullfinches’ ability to skilfully mimic different tunes, making determined bird keepers teach captive bullfinches a variety of tunes played to them. How to Care for the Eurasian Bullfinch
To take care of Eurasian bullfinches, and to also admire their unique beauty, you can hang bird feeders in your garden or backyard, if you happen to live in an area that is inhabited or visited by these birds.
Do keep in mind that common bullfinches are known as very rare bird feeder visitors, unlike other bird species. That’s because bullfinches are extremely shy birds, and so according to collected data, they have only been observed in as little as 10% of the BTO Garden BirdWatch.
Even though these feathery living creatures prefer deciduous woodland, ever since the late 1990s, the number of Eurasian bullfinches observed in gardens and backyards “equipped” with feeders full of alluring sunflower seeds, among other seeds, has been steadily on the rise.
It is also the case that many bird watch enthusiasts who have kept failing to attract Eurasian bullfinches to their feeders for years have finally got to witness more success in getting to take a close look of these beautiful animals, as despite the fact that bullfinches tend to remain in the same area throughout their entire lives, it is possible for them to choose to move away from the breeding site in search for food during the cold winter months.
The highest chance of attracting common bullfinches to one’s garden or backyard comes in the garden happens to be of a suburban or rural type, and especially if the garden is connected to woodland or scrub areas by the use of thick hedgerows. The reason for this is that Eurasian bullfinches share a preference for thick covers. Even though they mainly feed on seeds, they also favor other plants, such as common nettle, elm, and ash.
For dedicated bird caregivers who are considering to take care of a Eurasian bullfinch as a pet, above all, give the feathery fellow the utmost respect it deserves. Also, before possibly adding this unique bird species to your collection, contact experienced bullfinch care enthusiasts and did your best research to provide the bird with everything needed to thrive happy and healthy. Lastly, always obey the law in your area of residence, and never acquire a bullfinch if keeping this bird does not comply with the law in your area of residence.
What Does a Bullfinch Look like?
Adult male and female Eurasian bullfinches have grey backs, blacktails, white rumps, black wings, grey-white wing bars, and a distinct black cap extending forward to the black-colored bill. In males, the underparts stand out as they are colored in rose-red, while in females and juveniles alike, the underparts are colored in pinkish-grey.
Are Bullfinches Endangered?
Even though the population of Eurasian bullfinches has greatly plumed in the last 40 years, and despite the fact their population keeps decreasing based on data provided by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, these birds are still abundant in number in the wild, and so they are listed as Least Concern, and are not considered endangered as of now.
Why Is the Bullfinch Population Declining?
The major reason for the significant decline of the Eurasian bullfinchpopulation is not clear up-to-date but is believed to be the change in agricultural practices, as well as the loss of arable weeds. In the period between the 1950s and the 1970s, Eurasian bullfinches were considered a major pest of commercially grown fruit trees, which led to licensed control of these bird species, yet this did not really show to have a crucial impact on the number of bullfinches.
Do Bullfinches Pair for Life?
Based on a recent 2018 study, what has been long assumed about bullfinches is now a solid fact – yes, bullfinches do pair for life. The bullfinch is a monogamous bird species, keeping the same partner throughout their entire life.
How to Attract Bullfinches?
If you happen to live in the natural range of bullfinches and/or in areas where they migrate to, you can attract bullfinches to your garden or backyard, by filling a suitable bird feeder with seeds. Bullfinches are mostly attracted to sunflower seeds.
How Long Does it Take for Bullfinch Eggs to Hatch?
It takes between 14 and up to 21 days for bullfinch eggs to hatch.
How Many Eggs Do Bullfinches Lay?
Female bullfinches are known to lay between 4 and up to 5 eggs every year in a nest built out of lichens, moss, and fine twigs. The nest is built at least 4 and up to 7 feet above the ground and is further lined with a thick, nice layer of fine, smooth roots.
Do Bullfinches Migrate?
Not all bullfinches migrate, and in fact, most of them are mainly resident. However, many of the bullfinches that happen to occupy the northern parts of these bird species’ range do migrate in the winter, flying further south.
Where Can You Find Bullfinches?
You can find bullfinches in their preferred type of habitat across their natural range, consisting of mixed woodlands, agricultural farmland, and orchards. Look for bullfinches up in the cover of the trees, as they rarely come to the ground, and also look for their nests that are typically built in bushes and shrubs, like hawthorn and blackthorn.
Are Bullfinches Rare?
It is partially true to state that Eurasian bullfinches are rare since these birds tend to be naturally very shy, preferring to stay away from the sight of humans, hidden among the cover of trees. However, even though the population of bullfinches keeps declining, these birds are still quite high in number, with about 35 000 000 – 69 999 999 mature individuals thriving in the wild, according to data from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.