Bird's Eye View of Bute

The Chaffinch

(1) Chaffinch
(1) Chaffinch
(2) Chaffinch
(2) Chaffinch
(3) Chaffinch
(3) Chaffinch
(4) Chaffinch
(4) Chaffinch
(5) Chaffinch
(5) Chaffinch
(6) Chaffinch
(6) Chaffinch
(7) Chaffinch
(7) Chaffinch
(8) Chaffinch
(8) Chaffinch

 

 

The Chaffinch
I the past I have covered the Gold and the Greenfinch, and also the Siskin, which is also a member of the Finch family. Now it is the time for the “Chaffinch” to follow suit.
This is one of our most popular spring songsters, and is also one of the commonest and most, widespread breeding species, with as many as seven million of them scattered around Britain and Ireland
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The ones that we have here in the summer are very local, not going more than about 5km (3mls) from home, but their numbers can swell to very large proportions during the winter months, with a great number of the looking to grab a feed from your nut or fat feeders that you have in your garden, or, as in lots of cases, around the countryside. They much prefers to feed in Beech woods as in them are their usual supply of beech mast that they enjoy. (Beech mast is the name given to the fruits of the forest that beech and oak trees bear). In days of yore these beech nuts and acorns were gathered to feed pigs in some areas, a practise that I think has stopped as it must have been very time consuming.
If you wander through any of our woods that have beech trees, then you may see a great number of chaffinches and others, like house sparrows, and if you are very lucky you may even spot a Brambling with them. If you do then you are one up on me as I have not seen one on Bute (since then I have seen many) yet others have, so keep your eyes peeled. They are the same size as a chaffie, but the head is black and buff, and the chaffie is blue grey. The most prominent feature is when the take flight, they have a white rump, which is absent from the chaffie. This is the best way to identify them as it can be seen from a distance.
There are other small birds that have a white rump, like the Bullfinch, the Snow Bunting and the Wheatear, but the Bullfinches are always in pairs and the Wheatears are not here in the winter and the Snow Buntings prefer open meadows to feed, so this makes your task easier, and I would appreciate any sightings that to get of them.
Back to the bird in view. The male chaffie has the most colours to it than the female, as is the case in a lot of species, this being that the male does little or none of the egg incubation, he just struts around looking and sounding important as his partner, who is a lot duller sits quietly on her eggs.
They both have a double wing bar which is easily seen at rest or in flight; they also have white outer tail feathers like e few other species. The male’s breast is pinkish, as is his face, with the females creamy. Males head, blue grey crown, females, buff coloured. Both have brown legs and a blue-grey stubby bill which is ideal for their diet of seeds and the like.
Nest time, and they build a lovely neat cup in the fork of a tree or bush, and they also use the lichens stripped from the surrounding branches to hide it from prying eyes. They only have one brood per year and they hatch from 4-5 dark spotted greenish eggs. They are also long lived birds living up to be twelve years old. A dead bird that have been found and that have rings on them gives us the proof of their age, and the usual cause of death is blamed once again on the motor car or the domestic cat. I think that is because dead birds on the road are more noticeable on the road than in the woods, and they will also last longer there untouched by other birds who would eat them as they are frightened to do so in case they get run down as well, so the longer they lie the more chance we have of spotting a ring on them. And as for the cats, wee they bring their catches home to show off to you, and as you try to take the bird off them, you would notice any that have been ringed.
I see a vast amount of little piles of feathers in the woods and around the countryside, a sure sign that a Sparrowhawk has been around, and if the poor wee bird had a ring on it, it will be hidden in the grasses and the like, so it’s perhaps wrong to apportion the blame of the decline of any birds, to the most obvious of reasons when the main cause of death could be something entirely different.


At least, rings that have been recovered give in many instances give us an idea of migration and their age which is their intended use/

Norrie Mulholland
First published in the Buteman 19-12-2003.


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