Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bullfinches




There have been bullfinches in the garden almost every day since Christmas. The attraction for them is a winter-flowering cherry Prunus subhirtella autumnalis which produces a continuous supply of flower buds from November until the end of March. The ground underneath the tree is littered with petals that they have torn off while they've been feeding, but the tree just keeps producing more.

Bullfinches are notorious for feeding on pear buds and we have a Concorde pear tree further down the garden that produces a very good crop of fruit every autumn. The bullfinches probably take some blossom but the winter-flowering cherry seems to be a bigger attraction.



They also seem to like hawthorn flower buds. This tree is level with the bedroom window so provides an opportunity to watch the birds feeding at close quarters.



It's often said that bullfinches pair for life, though I didn't know whether there is really any sound evidence for this until today, when it was confirmed in a post on Twitter that highlighted this piece of research. The idea may have arisen because the male, female and juvenile birds stay together in a family group until spring. Now Professor Olav Hogstad at the Norwegian university of Science and Technology Department of Natural History has shown that pairs can stay together for at least three breeding seasons..


 My impression is that bullfinches are doing quite well in my part of County Durham. I've seen more this year than I can ever remember. They stick together in family groups through the winter, which makes them easier to spot.


The Rev. F.O.Morris, in his Morris's British Birds in 1891, had a charming theory as to how the bullfinch got its name. "If I may venture upon a conjecture" he wrote "its name is derived from this circumstance, Bullfinch, if so, being a corruption of Budfinch, the word bud being pronounced in the vulgate of the north of England, as if spelled 'bood' "

7 comments:

  1. The reason for the name makes sense. I had imagined it was because of their puffed-up chests.
    They seem a bit too exotic for England - almost like tiny parrots.
    But I feel the same way about magpies and even starlings at times for they too have wonderful colours but we don't necessarily notice unless we make a point of it.

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  2. I thought the same Lucy.

    The iridescence in magpie and starling feathers when the sunlight catches them is beautiful!

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  3. What a pleasant sight you get to see, they are such cheery little things. I get a lot of Goldfinches just now, eating the seeds on the Ash trees.

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    1. We get a few goldfinches in the garden on the thistle seed feeder. I believe bullfinches are fond of ash seeds too.

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  4. Great to read that piece of research Phil. Like you I've noticed a number of bullfinches in somerset in recent weeks, in areas not normally seen. Anecdotal, but there does seem to be more about these days (and we saw 13 at WWT Washington on Christmas Eve - which was by and far the best present)

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    1. Great to hear from you! Hope all is well. The biggest changes in finch numbers I've noticed around here (apart from the bullfinches) is that greenfinch numbers seem to have plummeted, presumably because of the parasite. There always used to be half a dozen visiting the bird table at this time of year, but none at all so far. On the plus side, tree sparrows seem to be doing well and are frequent visitors to the garden. They even investigated a bird box last year, but didn't nest. Maybe this year......

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  5. Nice account Phil. Bud Finch does seem to be an appropriate name. Population here in SW Sunderland is thriving, spreading from mature thorn strongholds & being met with more frequently as a suburban breeding bird, even in more modest gardens. Certainly on the up in most parts of VC66.

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