Identification

This is our common species of finch and an easy bird to spot in many environments. Male chaffinches are unmistakeable for anything else, being one of our most colourful birds. During the breeding season in particular, the colours become vivid as the feather tips wear away to reveal their bright plumage. During winter the colours are more faded, but are still obvious. The chaffinch has pink-red underparts and cheeks, a buff-chestnut back, and a red-buff head and nape which becomes slate-blue during the breeding season. Female and immature chaffinches are less colourful, with similar patterning but picked out in shades of brown, with buff under-parts and brown-grey upperparts. The wings of both sexes are dark with white bars.

Chaffinches have a loud, clear call with varied notes and regional differences in dialect. Most commonly a metallic pink, pink sound is heard when the bird is perching.

Size

14-18cm (5 ½-7in) long

Distribution

Chaffinches are widespread throughout the British Isles, resident everywhere except for higher ground and some of the more remote islands of Scotland. During the summer an influx of birds from northern Europe supplements our resident population and these may spread to the areas where chaffinches are not normally present. Typically it is the females that migrate while many males remain in northern Europe, giving rise to the name 'coelebs', which means 'the bachelor'.

Status

Chaffinches are one of the most common birds in the UK and populations are not believed to be in decline. They are not considered at all threatened or requiring of any targeted conservation effort.

Habitat preference

Chaffinches are found in a range of habitats including woods, parks, gardens and hedgerows. They are likely to be found in more open areas in autumn and winter, when large groups of visiting birds search for seeds to sustain them through the winter.

Where to find them in the garden

Chaffinches tend to avoid bird feeders, preferring to forage on the ground beneath bird tables, or under hedges. You may see them hopping around in these areas, or perched on branches. They can become bolder if they are regularly exposed to human contact, so if you regularly eat outside you may find them waiting on the sidelines for stay crumbs.

Role in the garden

Chaffinches mainly feed on seeds and fruit, helping to disperse seeds and encourage new plant growth. They are more likely to prey on insect larvae for their chicks when these have hatched.