|Scientific Name:||Linaria flavirostris|
|Life Span:||2-3 years (in the wild)|
|Size:||5.1 to 5.3 inches|
|Habitat:||Moorlands, coastal wetlands|
|Country of Origin:||European countries|
The twite also called the Pennine finch, is among the most endangered birds in the United Kingdom. The South Pennines and Peak District are two of the strongholds of this tiny bird. The twites are tiny passerine birds and members of the Fringillidae family.
These birds look the same with the linnet in terms of shape and size. They measure 5.1 to 5.3 inches or 13 to 13.5 centimeters long. They do not have the red patch on the head and breast, which the linnet has. Likewise, they do not have redpolls.
These birds are brown streaked with a shade of black on top and a pinkish rump. Their conical beak changes its color per season. In winter, it is yellow then changes to grey when summer comes in. The call of twites is a distinguishing twit from where the name comes in. The song comes with fast twitters and trills.
In the United Kingdom, the twites serve as the subject of different research projects in the Pennines, the North Wales, Scottish Highlands, and Lancashire coastlines. Records reveal that the birds living in the eastern Pennine Hills fly to the southeast shoreline in winter. Others fly to the west between the Hebrides and Lancashire. The Welsh population during winter is nearly exclusive to Flintshire.
Habitat and Range
Twites come with a diverse breeding distribution in Europe. They occupy the northwest, Caucasus, and nearby portions of Turkey and Russia. Europe accounts for below ½ of twites’ international breeding range.
Their breeding population in Europe is big and represents just less than half of the total population all over the world. The population became stable between 1970 and 1990. Though there were reductions noted in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland between 1990 to 2000. Key populations in Turkey and Norway were constant. The species stayed stable overall.
Twites can be seen throughout the year in their common habitats in these areas. Breeding birds can be seen in the upland moors in the Pennines and Scotland. During winter, they move to Wales and on the east shoreline of England. Breeding specimens choose moorlands while the wintering birds are seen in the coastal wetlands.
Calls and Songs
The songs and calls of twites are “chweee,” “chwaiie,” and “twee.”
In the wild, twites live for 2 to 3 years. In some regions, especially in Ireland, these birds are somewhat rare. Likewise, in the Southern portions of England where they can find their ideal habitats, these birds will nest on top of the sea cliffs facing the north.
In captivity, these birds may live longer than their usual lifespan in the wild. Predation, loss of habitat, and scarce food supply can be top reasons for their shorter lifespan.
Twites will nest in bracken or heather. They need in-bye farmlands in 1 to 2 kilometers of the nesting area that can offer sufficient food so that they can raise the brood. These birds feed on various seeds like dandelion, meadow grass, sorrel, and thistle.
These birds will nest close to the ground and lay 5 to 6 eggs. After the breeding period, they will move to the shore where they spend the entire winter before going back to the breeding areas from April to May.
Twites are closely related to linnets. The best way to identify and distinguish twites from them is a comprehensive examination. Look for the bird with a stubby yellow beak and a cinnamon-colored throat. All these features will be enough to check and verify the identity of the bird as a twite.
The call of a twite is quite different from linnets. However, it is somewhat hard to distinguish the bird from the mix of birds. During the breeding period, the light pink rump and the absence of a red spot on the bird’s breast and head must make the identification diagnostic.
Twite vs. Linnet
Defined as “buffy” during winter, the closely associated twite and linnet share the same drab plumages during this period. Location is a useful clue to identify twites. Another thing is their more colorful plumage.
The most crucial factor to consider when recognizing twites is the location. Since they are breeding birds, they are confined to northern and western coastlines of Scotland and Ireland up to upland regions of northern England and Scotland, with some individuals in North Wales. Their British population has been estimated at around 10,000 pairs in 1999.
In winter, Twites are superficially the same to Linnet but slightly thinner and with a distinct, long tail that is roughly 10% longer with a deeper fork. It comes with palpable white flashes in their tails and primaries. However, twites have 3 features that set them apart from the linnets.
A beautiful, distinctive orange-buff ground shade to their faces and their unmarked throats. The brown streaks on their bodies extend from the sides of their breasts instead of on the flanks. Their bellies and under tail coverts, however, are white.
Darker brown upperparts with shadier streaks and more prominent wing bars that vary from whitish to buff all over the ends of greater coverts.
The upperparts are much the same to the upperparts of lesser redpolls compared to the upper parts of linnets.
Their yellow beaks in winter that contrast with their faces. In summer, the beaks are grey. In summer, their beaks are grey. Their beaks normally begin to darken in March to April.
The male’s pinkish rump is usually partially obscured by the light feather fringes in winter and autumn. Though its color is brighter during summer, still it could be hard to see despite in flight.
The rump of females is brown with black streaks. Like linnets, twites make different calls like the twittering noises that differ a lot from the calls of linnet, except that these birds are often more nasal and slightly harder and softer calls like the silent “tweep-tweep-tweep.”
The harsh and disyllabic nasal “tchooik” sound is perhaps the most useful and distinctive way to locate twites among the flocks of linnets. Twites also get just one molt in a year. Both male and female twites slowly change their coloration to something darker. They even turn more worn during the breeding period. Compared to linnets, the male twites do not develop the distinctive plumage of linnets during summer.
Unlike their more colorful cousins, the brown-streaked twites are one of the easily overlooked types of finches. Purple finch, American goldfinch, and other colorful birds tend to be more attractive for most bird keepers compared to other finches like twites.
These finches need more seeds for food. Their choice of food made them susceptible to agricultural changes. Their breeding populations in England, particularly on the Pennines, decreased because the hay meadows are being used in making pasture or silage. The biggest population of twites can be seen in the northern isles, namely Shetland, the Hebrides, and Orkney.
Twites are unusual as they eat only seeds. Adults also feed the young with seeds. Therefore, these birds may struggle to survive in case of insufficient seed supply. Twites look for their favorite seeds on the roadsides, waste ground patches, verges, and hay meadows that can be up to 2.5 kilometers from their nesting sites.
The males look for the seeds while the females will sit on their nests and wait for them. When the eggs hatch, they will both collect seeds and feed the hatchlings. They are somewhat fussy regarding the seeds they eat. In spring, they eat dandelion seeds while they feast on the seeds of common sorrel during summer. When autumn comes in, they’ll eat autumn hawkbit or thistle seeds.
When October comes, they will fly to the eastern coastline of England, where they live for a while and feed themselves on saltmarshes. After winter, they will return to South Pennines. If you want to take care of twites, then be sure you always have its favorite food items, or else survival will be impossible for them.
No exact information has been provided about the possible predators or twites. But since they are finches, they can be attacked and killed by bluejays, raccoons, hawks, eagles, snakes, and many more. Predators may attack and destroy the eggs and kill the unguarded juveniles. Even adults can be killed by those animals. Like other finches, twites are not capable of fighting, but they may pretend to be injured or do anything else to discourage the predators.
Twites are migratory birds since they are finches. They migrate during winter and breeding periods. Those individuals living in Scandinavia spend the winter in the west of Europe while others fly to other nearby areas and wait there until the early spring.
Twites are possibly the rarest breeding members of the finch family found in Ireland. In the north of the country, these finches breed in their marginal seaside habitats with the heathland element then they fly to coastal regions in winter.
In Great Britain, they’re more of the real upland breeders associated with in-bye lands and moorlands. However, the number of individuals that visit Northern Ireland during winter seems to be more than the expected breeding population and should be augmented somewhere else in Great Britain or Ireland.
In the north of Scotland, the females lay eggs between mid-May and mid-August. In most cases, females breed around mid-June. Those who stay in Northern England lay eggs in late April to late May or June.
Female twites living in Norway lay their eggs between April and August, but it mostly occurs in mid-May until mid-June in Central Norway. Populations in the Caucasus lay eggs from mid-May.
Twites come together and form big flocks. It happens out of the breeding period. At times, they go with other finches to salt marshes and coasts. The twite breeds in north Europe all over central Asia. Its favorite breeding spot is the treeless moorland.
These birds construct their nest in the bush and lay 5 to 6 light blue-colored eggs. They become partial residents of their preferred breeding spots. However, most twites migrate to the south and move to the coast. Their population decreased sharply in some portions of its range, especially Ireland.
Regardless of the breeding areas, all-female twites will have 1 to 2 broods every year. Compared to other finches, their nests are often on or closer to the ground in bilberry, heather, grass tussocks, rush, cotton-grass, and a lot more. Their nests are usually under a rock or in the crevices and dry-stone walls. They can also be found on the cliff ledge with or even without vegetation or on young conifers in the plantations.
Their nests look compact and well-made. The foundation is made of tiny branches of heather, roots, bracken fronds, stalks, moss, grass, and anything else available in the wild. The nests are also lined densely with the felted mass of hair, wool, feathers.
Each clutch can have 4 to 6 eggs, but clutches often have 3 to 7 eggs. The females will incubate the eggs in 12 to 13 days. Sooner after hatching, the babies are expected to fledge in the next 11 to 12 days of their lives. Fledging, however, often happens to most individuals in 10 to 15 days.
The nesting belts are typically situated between 900 to 1,200 feet above sea level, but it can also be at 1,500 feet above sea level. The females often begin in building their nests around the 2nd week of May. During the building process, both the male and female twites go together to collect the necessary materials. As they do, you will hear them singing a song that is like the one that linnets will sing when making nests.
The popular “twaate” call is often the one you will hear from these birds. This call is not like the cry of other moorland birds.
Twites were so common and abundant in Ireland during the 19th and 20th centuries. The history says they were breeding in the entire counties in the north of Ireland, except for County Armagh. In other parts of the UK, 95% of their total breeding population was believed to stay in Scotland while the populations in England were almost completely confined to South Pennines. While there were no studies done to find out the exact reasons behind their decreasing populations in Ireland, some factors appeared to be involved in this matter.
It seems that the feeding changes are more important over the changes in the nesting areas. Those changes made in feeding twites might be the reason why most females failed to have successful 2nd broods.
These birds need access to reliable sources of seeds they love to eat, especially when they breed. At first, they look for meadow grass or purple moor-grass. In the end, they will switch to dandelion and sorrel seeds. Grass harvesting takes place earlier in the fields that have been changed into silage production, which results in the unavailability of food for twites.
Also, the loss or insufficiency of their preferred food items during winter might have contributed to further winter dispersal from their breeding grounds. Augmented stocking rates and any other changes made on moorland edge might reduce the ideal nesting sites for these birds that led to significant loss of the clutches through predation or destruction.
Twites have a big range with their estimated global extension of between 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 km2. Its global population is also large at around 340,000 to 1,500,000 birds in Europe. International population trends were not quantified. However, the species isn’t believed to reach the thresholds for population reduction criteria set by the IUCN in its Red List. Therefore, the twites were added to the Least Concern category.
Common Health Concerns
An unhealthy diet, poor husbandry, and poor handling can all lead twites to a variety of diseases. If you notice something is wrong with your pets, then you should contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Here are the common diseases among finches:
- Colds – Chilling triggers colds. Your pets would be listless. Their feathers were fluffed upward. They wheeze, too. In this case, don’t bath your pet and keep them warm. Consult them with your trusted veterinarian.
- Diarrhea – It is commonly caused by excess green food, contaminated and moldy food, dietary changes, and lack of freshwater. Keep them warm, so be sure they always have fresh water. Consult a vet.
- Mites – Always check your pets for mites, especially the red mites. It is the parasite that feeds on birds’ blood and causes weight loss and itching. Good thing, mites are easy to destroy by using a spray. Seek help from a vet or pet shop.
- Overgrown claws – These are a common issue among twites, too. You have to clip them. When left unclipped, overgrown claws can be so dangerous to your pets as they may get caught on the cage wires by accident. Care should be taken in cutting overgrown nails to prevent cutting your pets’ nerves and blood vessels. Consult a veterinarian or visit the nearest pet shop for help.
Twites as Pets
Since they are finches, you can expect the same experience as what you can get with goldfinches, purple finches, or any other types of finches. They are migratory birds, so they may act differently compared to other birds like conures. However, turning them into good pets is never impossible as you may succeed in doing so by giving proper care, good housing, and a well-balanced diet. Finches will be happy in your home if you give them everything they need, especially food.
Like other finches, twites need a spacious cage, especially if you prefer to keep them in it for most of the time. You must keep them fully flighted and not having their wing feathers trimmed. Their cage must be horizontal, not vertical. Finches love to play and will be happier when kept with other finches. Don’t house them with any other types of birds like parrots, or else your tiny pets will be in trouble.
If you keep two pairs of twites or more in just one cage, then breeding is more likely to occur. This will happen, especially when you provide them a nest or some nesting materials. Some finches could be housed in same-sex pairs if you don’t want them to breed. However, this will still depend on the species and the time of the year. To be sure, get help from a reputable finch breeder who can help you determine the same-sex pairs of twites that will likely get along.
Also, when you plan on keeping an aviary of mixed finch species, consult a finch breeder beforehand. Some finches could be aggressive towards other finches, particularly during the breeding period. Finches thrive on pelleted-based diets that are specifically intended for finches. Supplemented with the fresh greens and veggies, egg-food, grubs, and a handful of seeds.
The cage of your pets must be their refuge and a place where they can find comfort, discovery, and security. A roomy enclosure is highly advisable. It must be big enough so that your pets can stretch their wings, fly, and switch from perch to perch. Don’t put the enclosure in draughts, humid conditions, or direct sunlight. Sand sheets or enclosure bird sand must be put in the base of the cage and replace it from time to time.
Furnish the cage with perches of various sizes, and add a toy or two. Don’t overcrowd the cage. Buy and try some toys and switch them to prevent boredom. Remove droppings every day. The furnishings and cage must be cleaned and sterilized thoroughly by using a pet-safe disinfecting solution every week. A detachable tray makes cleaning easier and more convenient.
Be extra careful not to distract your pets at night. Keep in mind that night fright will cause your pets to fly to the cage wires. To prevent this, cover the entire cage in the evening. Most finches love to bathe, so provide your pets with a shallow dish that is being enough for all. This way, they can simply jump into the bowl and bathe whenever they want to.
External aviaries should have a sheltered section to give protection from rain, wind, or strong sunlight. It’s where you must position the roosting section (the nest box or perch) and food containers. Aviaries must be aptly furnished with branches of various widths. Don’t put perches directly on top of the water and food pots.
Introduce your finches to their new house. But before this, introduce your finches to their new house, fill the dishes with water and food, and sprinkle a bit more on the floor. This will make sure they have ample food to consume until they see the seed pots. Be sure the doors and windows are always close. Fires are secured.
Open one tip of a carry box and allow your finches to walk to their new house. If they seem anxious and don’t settle, drape a piece of fabric over 3 sides of the enclosure until they calm down. Let the birds take their time. They can adjust on their own.
Setting up the Cage
Finches of the same size and species could be kept in flocks or pairs. Their cage should be big enough for the finches so that they can stretch their wings, play, and climb. Here are some tips to help you in getting started:
- Choose a cage that measures 12 x 12 x 15 inches. The more birds kept in a cage, the bigger it must be.
- Put the cage at or underneath your eye level.
- Birds hate strong smells, drafts, and smoke. Keep the cage outside of the kitchen and apart from doors and windows.
- Layer the base of the cage with wood pellets, aspen shavings, a liner, or recycled paper.
- Change and clean the base of the cage at least once every month.
- Give a shallow water dish where your pets can take a bath. Gently sprinkle them with lukewarm water 2 to 3 times every week.
- Encourage them to forage by putting balls of hay inside the cage.
Finches must also have mineral blocks or cuttlebones to keep their beaks healthy and supply more calcium to strengthen their bones.
How to Care for Twites?
Aside from a big and spacious cage, you should give them high-quality finch mixes. You can buy these from the local pet shops. Check the seed bowls every day and remove the empty husks. Refill them whenever necessary. Fresh greens must be thoroughly washed. Examples of fresh greens you can feed to your twites are lettuce, dandelion chickweed, and sweet apple.
Do not overfeed your pets. Cuttlefish are rich in calcium and may help in keeping their beaks healthy and strong. A mineral block gives trace elements and essential minerals. Grit helps them digest their food faster, so it should be part of their everyday meals.
To protect your pets from sickness, make it a habit to wash their water and food bowls. Freshwater must be provided every day. Empty the water bowl and refill it with clean water every time you feed your twites. Remember, properly cared birds will live a healthier, happier, and longer life.
Where to Get One?
If you want to keep a pair of twites as pets, then you may look for them through the pet stores and breeders online. Regardless of the source, always make sure the birds are in good condition before buying them. Healthy twites are alert and smart, without any symptoms of discharge from their eyes and nostrils, with clean vent areas, and a good coat. Also, the birds must not have any symptoms of breathing issues. Their movements must be fast and without any indications of lethargy.
Twites can be sold anywhere between $50 to $100. Do your homework to find the best pricing for these pets. Aside from the bird, you also need extra money for the cage and other necessary materials and supplies, especially the food. You need to provide the following for the bird:
- Water pot
- Mineral block
- Cage and stands
- Cage covering
- Seed pot
- Seed guard
- Bathing and grooming supplies
- Sand sheets
- Pet-friendly disinfectants
- Finch care book guide
You may end up spending more than $300, especially from the start, as you need to buy a cage. For the rest, your total expenses every month might be up to $200. Shop around to get all these items at affordable prices.
Proper Handling and Safety Tips
Your pets are new. They need time to adjust to their new surroundings. Therefore, you should avoid handling your pets in 3 to 4 days. Allow them to adjust to their new housing. Settled-in birds may get sick. Watch them closely and seek help from a veterinarian once you notice any of the following:
- Reduced grooming or activity
- Weight loss or decreased appetite
- Changes in droppings that lasted for 3 days or longer
- Prolonged sitting in the base of the cage
- Discharge from beaks and sneezing
- Fluffed up feathers
In preventing common diseases, you must practice proper handling. These include:
- Washing your hands carefully before and after touching your pets.
- Be extra careful in handling your birds. Keep in mind that they might bite and scratch when stressed.
- Supervise your kids when they touch the birds.
- Animals of any kind may carry bacterial, viral, parasitic, and fungal diseases that are highly contagious to people. Carefully wash your hands with warm and soapy water right after handling them, their cage, and even the water in the bowl.
- Supervise your kids as well in washing their hands after playing with and touching your pets.
- Twites look much the juvenile linnets as they also have white panels in their tails and wings.
- Out of the breeding season, these birds make large flocks. They fly together with other finches on the salt marshes and coasts.
- A group of finches can be called a charm, trembling, or company.
- These birds resemble the medium-sized brown finches. They look like the redpoll, but they don’t have red marks and a black bib. They differ from linnets by having yellowish beaks and more pronounced streaks on their backs.
- Twites measure 12.5 to 14 centimeters. They weigh 14 to 18 grams.
- Their nests are on the rocks or ground. They are sometimes on the bushes but well-concealed. They are made of plant materials and lined with feathers, root fibers, and hair.
- They breed 5 to 6 eggs from April to May, which the females will incubate for 12 to 13 days. Juveniles stay on the nests for up to 15 days.
- Twites are migratory birds. They migrate by day. They fly to the south in October to November and will go back to their original habitats in March to April. During winter, they fly to the North Sea, but some birds might remain in the south of Finland.
- These birds are herbivores. They eat nothing else but seeds.
- Twites make a nasal babbling call. Their song is the same as the Linnet’s song, but that song is fainter and simpler.
- These birds are critically endangered and protected in Finland. However, the species has been listed as a globally least concern animal.
Are twites endangered species?
Twites are considered globally least concern by IUCN. However, this particular species has been listed as critically endangered in Finland.
Do twites sing?
Yes, twites are finches, so they are also songbirds. Their calls and songs are somewhat the same as that of linnets, but their versions are known to be simpler and softer.
What do twites sing?
Twites are songbirds. The songs and calls of twites are “chweee,” “chwaiie,” and “twee.”
What do twites eat?
Since they are finches, these birds are herbivores, too. They don’t eat veggies or fruits but will be so happy when offered with seeds like dandelion seeds.
What are the common predators of twites?
No information has been given about this, but mammals and bigger aviators are more likely to be the predators for these birds. These animals can be hawks, eagles, raccoons, bluejays, etc.
How long do twites live?
In the wild, twites tend to have a shorter lifespan like most of them last for 2 to 3 years. However, they may likely live longer in captivity where there is enough food, a secure cage, and loving hands to care for them when they are sick.
Are twites big or small birds?
Twites are finches, so they are small, like their cousins. On average, they measure between 5.1 to 5.3 inches in length.
Where do twites come from?
Twites are finches that originated in Europe. They can be found in European countries like Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Scotland.
How many eggs do female twites lay every year?
Every year, the female twites can have up to 2 broods. Each cluster has 5 to 6 light-blue eggs.