The chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is one of the best-known and most common of all British birds (5). Both sexes can be easily identified in flight when they reveal double white flashes on the wings and white tail-sides (3). In summer the males have colourful plumage, with a rosy-red breast and cheeks and a bluish-grey crown and nape of the neck. These colours fade somewhat in winter. Adult females and juveniles have a buff or greyish coloured breast and greyish-green upperparts (2). Chaffinches produce a variety of calls, including a loud, clear pink call when perched (2). The musical rattling song is also loud (6).
Chaffinches feed on seeds, particularly of cereals or weeds, taken from the ground (5), in summer they may also take invertebrates from the ground or in the air (6). In winter, native birds tend to feed in small groups near hedges or in woodlands and roost singly or in pairs, whereas migrants from mainland Europe occur in large flocks in fields and roost communally (5).
During the breeding season, the male chaffinch performs a courtship display, showing off his bright breeding plumage (6). The female builds the nest (5), typically in the fork of a tree and camouflages it with lichen and moss (2). The female incubates the eggs alone (6) for 11 to 14 days. One brood of around four eggs is produced each year (5). The young chaffinches will have fully fledged 13 to 14 days after hatching from the egg, and the maximum known lifespan of this species is 14 years (3).
Widespread throughout Britain; the chaffinch is absent only from high ground such as the Scottish Highlands (5). During winter, birds from northern Europe migrate to Britain. It is typically the females that migrate, and Linnaeus named the species coelebs, meaning ‘the bachelor’ because it was the male birds that remained in his native Sweden for the winter (5).
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