Sunday, January 14, 2018


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' "