The brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is a medium-sized finch with attractive orange plumage on the breast and shoulders. It is often mistaken for the more familiar chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), but may be distinguished by its white rump and the reduced amount of white on its wings, as well as by its orange parts, which fade into white on the belly and are spotted on the flanks (2)(3).
The male brambling has a jet black head during the breeding season, as well as a brown mantle, black wings and a black tail. The legs are dark brown and the bill is black, or occasionally blue-grey. Outside the breeding season, the male brambling has a mottled grey-brown head, with bluish-grey on the side of the neck, and dark brown wings edged with pale yellow. The bill is pale yellow to dark orange, with a black tip (2)(3)(4)(5).
The brambling displays marked sexual dimorphism, the female brambling being similar to the non-breeding male, but with a plainer brown head and face, and more subdued orange on the breast and shoulders. The bill is horn-coloured and the legs are brown. The juvenile brambling is much like the female, but with extensive buff-brown on the head and upperparts, while the rump and belly are tinged with dull yellow (2).
This species feeds mainly on seeds and fruits, but also takes small invertebrates and larvae. During the summer the brambling forages in low shrubs, bushes and trees, plucking insects from the trunk, branches and foliage. It also occasionally pursues and catches insects in flight. In the winter, when it may gather into large flocks containing thousands of individuals, the brambling usually forages on the ground (2).
Breeding from May to early August, the male brambling initiates courtship with a wheezing song given from a prominent perch with the bill wide open, the head back, crown raised, wings drooped and the white wing bars and white rump shown off. It may also make low, silent flights with slow, flicking wing beats. Pair bonds last for the duration of the breeding season. The female brambling builds the nest, which is a loose cup of grass, heather, bark strips, moss, lichen and feathers, placed 1 to 15 metres above the ground in the fork of a tree. The female incubates the clutch of 5 to 7 eggs for 11 to 12 days, during which time she is fed by the male. The chicks are fed by both the male and female and fledge at 13 or 14 days. The brambling usually breeds within its first year, and may live to over 14 years old (2).
The brambling breeds across northern Europe and Asia in a broad band that stretches from the United Kingdom, east to eastern Russia and the Far East. A migratory species, it migrates before the onset of winter to western, central and southern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East, and south-west, central and eastern Asia (2)(6).
The brambling breeds in birch and coniferous woodland, as well as mixed deciduous woods and dwarf birch forests near tundra. Outside of the breeding season, it is mainly found in areas of deciduous trees, including along the edges of agricultural fields and weedy stubble fields (2)(5).
The brambling is a widespread and abundant species and is not considered to be threatened with extinction. In Europe alone, which accounts for less than half of its breeding range, over 13 million pairs are found breeding across northern regions that include parts of Iceland, Denmark, Germany, Scandanavia, Finland and Russia (7)(8).
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