Bullfinches - in your garden?

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Bullfinches - in your garden?

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I hope you enjoyed reading ‘Urban Birder’ David Lindo’s latest piece for Birds magazine on his encounters with bullfinches. If you haven’t read it yet, do turn to page 77 of the Spring 2012 issue.

We asked you to let us know about your own experiences with these chunky finches in the magazine, so I thought I’d share one of my experiences with bullfinches to help get things rolling.

It’s always nerve racking meeting your partner’s parents for the first time, but even more so when you make that first trip to go and stay at their house. Amidst desperately trying to avoid all those social faux pas and remembering my manners on that first weekend in Yorkshire, my eyes were drawn to the bird feeders hanging outside.

Remembering that it is probably quite rude to stare out of the window when I should be making that all important first impression, all hope went out the window (literally) when a rose-breasted vision of beauty dressed in a silver jacket dropped down onto one of the seed feeders: a bullfinch!

From that first encounter forth, it has always been a pleasure to go and visit my girlfriend’s parents, Sue and Graham, because up to two pairs of bullfinches are a near constant presence in both front and back gardens. I should also state that it is also a pleasure to visit Sue and Graham because they are sparkling company and excellent hosts. The finches are merely a bonus! Waking up to the finches’ soft ‘peeuh’ calls outside the window is a very pleasant experience indeed. They are often the first birds I see each day.

As David says in his feature, bullfinches are sadly so much rarer now, making sightings like these even more precious.

Does your home for nature, include a place for bullfinches?

What do your bullfinches do?
I’m not lucky enough to have bullfinches coming to my feeders in my garden, but it would be great to hear from anyone who does. Please let us know by posting a comment below (you’ll need to register on the RSPB Community first), or emailing Nature's Home magazine at natureshome@rspb.org.uk and I'll add your stories to the blog.

  • We are lucky we have 2 pairs of bullfinches that cone all day everyday. Also greenfinch,blue tits,  great tits.

    I've tried everything though to get goldfinches with no success ..any tips will be appreciated.


  • Hi, I have small garden in a rural location, handy to woodland and farmland. I regularly have up to 5 pairs of bullfinches all through the season, I love them. They also nest nearby but I've never located where, as they bring their young to the garden. I constantly hear their beeping noises to locate each other while I'm working in the garden so I know they are near. They come and go in a large flock with the chaffinches, greenfinches and lots of goldfinches. They come for the sunflower hearts that I put out for them - the supply of which will bankrupt me soon!!  Once I put the seed out they are down before I get back in the house and are round most of the time.  Sitting among the cherry blossom where the feeders are is wonderful. My garden is full of birds at the moment, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, wrens, dunnocks, a pair of robins, blackbirds, thrush, sparrows, woodpeckers and reed buntings. Of course they all dive for cover when the sparrow hawk comes to visit or they catch sight of the buzzard high above. My garden is a constant source of joy and entertainment.

  • I have been fortunate this winter with 3 pairs of Bullfinches constantly in my garden. They fly from a nearby tree to the feeder all day long. This started after I changed my feeders and seed.

    I changed to a tube style of feeders and to the RSPB bird food - Feeder mix, which is brilliant as there is no waste, (I use 8 to 10 times as much cheaper food which the local chickens and pigeons eat most of). At the same time I starter to attract Goldfinches and Greefinches on a regular basis in addition to the ever-present blue tits, great tits, coal tits plus the odd visit from about 12 long-tailed tits. Interestingly I have also put up a niger sed container which has attracted nothing other than 1 Goldfinch who tried a few times but the left it. My neighbour had many goldcrests constantly eating the niger seeds but after she died there has been a gap of about a year before I started putting niger out so, hopefully, after time they will return?

  • I have three bullfinches visit my garden, two males and a female.  They sit in a tree checking it all out, then the males swoop down for some food.  The female occasionally goes for food but mostly likes to keep an eye on the two males.  I've got sunflower hearts in the feeders and they love them.  I get a lot of blue tits, long tailed tits, chaffinches and more recently there have been five or six goldfinches and a couple of greenfinches.  The bullfinches are my favourite though, such lovely colouring.

  • We're in Leicestershire and have occasional visits from a pair of bullfinches, who feed on the berries of a rowan tree in our garden. Last sighted 10 Jan 2012.

  • We have a pair of Bullfinches who have been visiting our sunflower heart feeder for a number of years.  In the summer it's great to see them with an offspring too.  Only seen one offspring though.  We have a suburban garden in Shrewsbury.

  • Hi, Bumpyrog here. Re Bullfinch sightings. On Garden Birdwatch Day i recorded a male and 2 females in our watching hour. The Male and one Female were regular visitors during the breeding season last year (2011). I have only seen the pair on one ocassion in February this year. I am in rural North Wiltshire. Hope this is helpful.

  • Hi, I very much enjoyed reading David's article in Birds magazine. I now live in Barnsley and felt very privileged when bullfinches appeared in our small garden soon after moving house just over a year ago. I had only ever seen one male before, in Bosnia in 1996! They are now regulars and visit us virtually every day, with 3 separate families seeming to take up residence for most of last summer. The most I have seen together is 3 adult pairs, and 2 adult pairs with a total of 4 young. They spent last summer eating seed from the bird table and from a tray on the ground, but this winter they have taken to eating nyger and sunflower hearts out of the seed trays on the feeders as well. I can confirm previous comments about them keeping watch for each other, as we have a tall tree at the side of the garden and they often seem to take it in turns flying down from it to feed. I quite often hear them in the tree as I'm putting food out in the morning, then by the time I get back indoors to the kitchen window, there they are! I have added some photos to the 2013 calendar gallery.

  • Hi, we have a beautiful pair of bullfinches here all winter, they visit at regular times and on occasion wait until I have put out a fresh supply of niger seeds and sunflower seeds before visiting our bird houses. I am hoping they will stay on this summer as I love to photography these shy wee birds.

  • Hi, I've been adding sightings and comments on Bullfinches from the Birds magazine, with no sighting of my own, until last week when I saw a female Bullfinch in my garden finishing off the Honeysuckle berries. Haven't seen Bullfinches in our garden for many years!

  • We live on outskirts of Southampton and have had a pair of Bullfinches around the garden for the last three years. Billy (as we call him ) showed up three weeks ago, feeding on the sunflower hearts feeder, and Mrs Bullfinch showed up this Friday morning. however, we have never seen any youngsters in or around the garden during the summer months.

  • The bullfinch pair were back in the garden yesterday morning. I live in Romiley which is south-east of Manchester.

  • And a few more email extracts from Birds readers on bullfinches to share. We're really building a great national picture and I'm encouraged to see reports from so many areas. Hopefully the advice that some people are sending in on what to feed is providing some inspiration too!

    Yesterday, we had a male bullfinch perched in a small tree in the garden for possibly 3 or 4 minutes. He watched the various tits feeding on a coconut  filled with suet and a peanut feeder only a few feet beneath him. We didnt see him feed.We usually have 3 or 4 sightings throughout the year. We live in a country environment some 7 miles north of Bristol, close to the Severn Bridge. Keith & Norma Richards

    I visited Wicken Fen to look out for the Hen Harriers and, late afternoon, about half a dozen Bullfinches arrived and stayed in the tree next to the Tower Hide . Mike Hoare

    We have a bird feeder in our back garden which has been visited for many years by a variety of birds. A sparrowhawk settled on the feeder yesterday looking for a meal (no luck!!) and we also get woodpeckers but never a bullfinch. Yesterday as we were leaving by the front door there were six bullfinches in our front garden feeding on a wiegilia bush - 3 male and 3 female - what a wonderful sight. I hope we will see them again. I remembered reading the article by David Lindo in your magazine so I thought I would record our sighting, in Blanefield, north of Glasgow. Colin

    We have had bullfinches coming for a number of years now.  It started as 1 pair put we now have 4 pairs. I can confirm the other reader's observation that they appear to keep watch for each other as they feed.  They usually only use the sunflower feeders.  It makes a very colourful picture to see male bullfinches and male goldfinches feeding together and they do not seem to mind sharing with other species except greenfinches which tend to monopolise the feeder in a quite aggressive manner. Carol Martin

    For 10 years I recorded the species in my garden outside for the Bristol Birdwatch (run by Avon Wildlife Trust). Although this has finished, I continue the recording. Last year I saw a pair in my garden during Jan, May, Jun, Jul, Aug and Dec. Bob

    My wife jean and I are lucky.We get bullfinches most days and we thinkk that they nested locally as we saw young birds in 2011. We regularly see both male and female birds at this time of the yearWe live in a fairly rural location  in a village equidistant from Leeds, York nd harrogate. Mike and Jean Henzell

    We have Bullfinches in our garden at Ampleforth Village, North Yorkshire.  To date we have noted two pairs. They come to the feeders occasionally but mainly take buds ... they seem to like forsythia. We deliberately do not keep a 'tidy' garden to facilitate the birds during the winter months and early Spring. Keith Moses.

    Having just read David Lindo's interesting article on the plight of Bullfinches in the latest edition of Birds magazine, I felt compelled to let you know that in my garden in Wiltshire I have up to 4 or 5 pairs every winter visiting my bird table. Of all the birds I am lucky enough to attract, the Bullfinch is by a long shot my favourite. The male is an absolute stunning bird and I find them to be quite bold in that they will stay on the feeding table for a considerable length of time before flying off. They tend to disappear in the summer and return around Christmas - slightly later this year I think due to the warm temperatures and they being less reliant on food tables. Andrew MacLachlan, Bowerhill, Wiltshire

    I live in Spondon, Derby and had not seen a Bullfinch for 20 years or more. Then, in June 2009, a male and female arrived at my garden feeding station, staying until August and visiting the feeding station several times a day. The year after, they did not come but in June 2011 they returned and again stayed until August. This year, during the recent cold spell from January 15-17, they turned up again Gordon Noble

    We saw two bullfinches on the bird feeders at Leighton Moss on December 29th. David & Alec St Pierre

    I live in Edinburgh and a pair of bullfinches come to my feeder in cold weather.  I also see them regularly around Edinburgh e.g. in parks, old cemeteries, country parks, in pairs or mixed or one-sex groups.   Friends have also noticed them frequently. Stella

    The last bullfinch sighting had been in a friend's garden in Bude, Cornwall, last May, so it was a huge thrill to spot a very chubby boy bullfinch in my front garden in Holsworthy, north-west Devon, on January 14.  So handsome in his rose waistcoat, silver DJ and black cap, he was munching on some dried-up buddleia branches (as was a nonchalant goldcrest a few weeks ago).  Saw another/the same bullfinch skulking in the back garden later that day, picking up seed fallings from the birdfeeder.  My sister spotted one in a tree out in the wilds near farmland last week; and this morning, another male bullfinch had discovered the very last of the very last Christmas pudding dregs in my mother's back garden.  Gorgeous, precious birds. Magic moments! Hilary Vivian, Holsworthy

    After no sitings in recent years , we were really excited that an adult male now seen a few times  feeding locally in our garden  here in countryside at Lympstone , Devon. Ki Moudry

    In the colder weather we get a pair of Bullfinch visit the feeding station. Sunflower hearts eagerly consumed.  In breeding season a pair have brought two young to the feeders, but thats the only time more than two have been seen at any one time.  Walking the dog I have seen Bullfinch along the Frome River Walkway, Bradley Stoke Three Brooks walk and Savages Wood, also along the Coalpit Heath Bridle Path.  Almost always as a pair, and if I don't always see them then I regualrly hear their very plaintive call to one another.

    I live in the Bristol area. J Baker

    Hi from Bowburn, Co Durham. With regard to Bullfinches in the garden, I have a pair visit the bird feeders most days, usually with chaffinches (recently there were 20 Chaffinches together!) I put out a large variety of food and attract around 15 different species, unfortunately one of which is the sparrowhawk.  However they are beautiful and he only kills to survive, unlike visiting cats!  Keep up all your good work.  We regularly visit Saltholme which is a fantastic day out. Val Jefferson

    Regular daily visitors.  Most seen at one time is four - 2 male 2 female.  Garden is not typical, it is next to a large field that was part of a park and has lots of mature trees - hornbeam, lime, horse chestnut amongst others.  The field has not been cultivated for at least 10 years and there is plenty of cover and lots of seeds in autumn/winter.  The finches that we see in largest numbers are goldfinches although in the very cold winter of 2010 there were flocks of siskins. Denis

    we have lived in our house in a suburb of Glasgow for 20 years without spotting any bullfinches until April last year when a pair decided to pay us a visit and feed

    on our bird feeders. They have continued to visit somewhat irregularly and successfully raised two offspring. After reading the magazine last evening I was delighted to see them this afternoon feeding on a feeder containing No Mess Sunflower Mix. Murray Clayton

  • I couldn't believe it the first time I saw one!   Now I get them every day in my small woodland garden.  My garden backs on to a small nature walk but I always have food available, it is stocked daily. I have seen as many as four male and three females present at the same time. Wonderful.  I feed them mainly on husk free sunflower seeds which all birds seem to enjoy.  They stay there for quite a while although they do tend to fend each other off which I find amusing as there is food for all. I am from Cheslyn Hay, Walsall in the West Midlands.

    Gill Lalley

    Hi - two female and one female bullfinches seen feeding on purple plum tree buds in our garden at in  Cheshire. Seen last week and yesterday. Also a pair seen in a nearby garden.

    Nick Houseman

    I have at least 2 pairs regularly visiting my feeder, which, during the winter, is placed on our patio 10 feet from the living room door. Visitors often ask 'What's that bird with the red front?' I have great delight to tell them! I also have a light hearted competition with my next door neighbour to see who has the most visits of this bird.C A Wills

    on 17th December there was a female on my rowan tree and earlier this month two males.  Also whilst walking locally in early January I saw two more males along a disused railway track.  I live near Northampton. Jean Dun

    Yesterday I sat down as usual to work in our home office when our local bullfinch trio turned up. It is the resplendent male who usually catches my eye, but he is generally accompanied by two females, as he was yesterday. We have lived in this house since 2005 though the bullfinches have only been here for about four years. First one, then a pair and now a trio. My garden is rather over-grown with a high unkempt hedge (made of assorted ever-green and deciduous shrubs) around part of it and about a dozen large mature trees (silver birch, leylandii and ash). I do not put out a feeder but my neighbour whose garden is immaculately kept, has several. This morning as I read David Lindo’s article I looked out of the window again and the trio of bullfinches are back. Do bullfinches always form pairs? If so is the extra female I am seeing likely to a daughter? Or is this male gathering himself a little harem? He is very good looking!

    Sue Mellor

    Like many of those who have already posted on the blog, I am fortunate to live in an area (beneath the Cotswold escarpment between Cheltenham and Gloucester) in which bullfinches seem to be bucking the national trend.  Until recently, although they were frequently to be seen and heard in the hedgerows in the lanes round about, they only occasionally visited my garden, usually in very cold weather.  Last year, this changed and, from January until late August, hardly a day went by without at least one bullfinch visiting my bird-feeders;  there was usually a pair, but sometimes as many as five birds in various combinations of gender. In June, one pair brought their fledged young with them, two or three at a time, over a period of several weeks. (The attached photographs are, unfortunately, rather fuzzy, having necessarily been take through window-glass.)  From late August until towards the end of October, however, I saw none at all in the garden, and for the following month sightings were only sporadic, but, at the end of November, they began to come regularly again, at least two males and one female, and have done so ever since.  Sunflower seeds are clearly the principal attraction, but they also fossick on the ground beneath the feeders, among the chaffinches and dunnocks that gather there intent on hoovering up anything dropped by the tits, greenfinches and woodpeckers at the peanut-feeders above.

    Robin Gilbert

    We often have a pair visit our garden (Whitchurch, Cardiff ) and in fact the male was sighted again this morning. Kelvin Hughes

    Decades ago, bullfinches were routine, if irregular, visitors to our Hertfordshire garden but not in recent years. In spring 2010, a pair arrived to feast upon the buds of a flowering cherry and were seen on two occasions. No further sightings since then until just after Christmas a pair visited the same tree; then again, ten days ago, two males on the same tree about the same business. I watched them for ten minutes or more casually stripping the early buds tricked by the mild weather. Suddenly they and all the other birds scattered in panic. Over the roof of the house, down the garden and into the laurel bushes at the back, swooped a sparrow hawk. I think all the birds got away but there has been no sight of the bullfinches since.

    Except, as I am about to press “send” there’s a pair back again! Nigel Matthews

    A pair - male and female - was seen this morning on raspberry canes at Newtown Powys Heather Parry

    Whilst practicising with my new camcorder I have managed to film both Red Kites and Bullfinches from my back garden, but was too late on one occasion to film the surprised visit of a Sparrowhawk.  I have seen them since and they are usually in pairs which I believe remain together throughout the year. We live in a  beatiful rural village called Thorner, only about eight miles from the centre of Leeds, West Yorshire. William Scott

  • I have been feeding the birds in my garden for years and love watching them.  I have many species that come and go.  I have a daily visit of bullfinches.  Two females and one male today.  Don t know what has happened to the other male!  Their favourite food is black sunflower seeds. Nicola Waring, Bolton

    Over the last 4 years the number of Bullfiches visiting our garden has increased. This winter the maximum counts at any one time  have increased to 8 males and 7 females. In the Autrumn there was a maximum count of 7 juveniles. I would estimate there are at least 5 pairs in the area. They love Black Sunflower seed. I have two seed feeders loaded with sunflower seed and one has a larger mesh than the other and it is apparent that the Bullfiches will only take seed from feeder with the larger mesh. They actually prefer taking seed from the ground or the birdtable but when I put seed out in this manner it just attracts up to 6 Grey Squirrels. Locally there are two groups of Bullfinch in the local countryside but the maximum count in these groups has only reached 5. This is on the Wirral. Paul

    I have seen four male bullfinches together in my garden within the last month and just today there have been two males and a female. Most days at least one male will turn up.  I have found they are very fond of sunflower hearts.  There have been at least four youngsters fledged during the Summer.  While out walking my dog today I saw another female in the hedgerow. Marilyn Simmons, St Austell, Cornwall

    We have recently moved to Milverton In Somerset. Mid December bullfinches started visiting our bird table - we have seen two males and three females together. They are now regular feeders and never seem to be far away. When on the table the female is really quite agressive towards the males, not letting them anywhere near the food, yet seems to be quite happy to share with the bluetits. The table is about 3 feet away from our door (excellent viewing) and one of the males must have seen his own reflection one day and thought it was another male. The attached photo shows him 'having a go' ..... at himself. We hope that they will continue to visit us and bring their young too. Helen & Simon

    We have had a pair of Bullfinches visiting our garden in Exeter for about eight years.  I say about eight as they didn't turn up one year. Initially they only turned up in early spring and fed on the plum tree buds.  In the past two years they have enjoyed the earlier appearance of the buds and begun to experiment with the seed, suet stick and suet block feeders.  They arrived this season in mid-December and turn up two to three times a week.  We have a feeder on the kitchen window which is used by robins, great,blue and coal tits and sometimes by nuthatches.  The female bullfinch has perched in the branches about a metre away from the window feeder and looked, (enviously -?) at the feasters. Anthony Blenkinsopp.

    We have so far seen 4 male and 3 female bullfinches in our fruit trees. We first noticed them a few weeks ago, but now our garden seems to have become a favourite feeding place. I had only ever seen a bullfinch once before and that was quite a few years ago! So we are just enjoying watching them but hoping that they leave a few buds so we can enjoy the fruit in the summer. Sue H

    I have a pair of bullfinches which  come on the  feeders in the garden  , and have been doing so  for at least  a year. This winter  another pair arrived  , and and all feed together .Stunning colours on the males. I am in High Peak. John

    Since buying the RSPB birdfeeder in December 2010, I have had plenty of bullfinches as well as many other finches in my garden! I have attached some photos of bullfinches, and also greenfinches, which often come in small flocks. I also have goldfinches and many chaffinches, and the latter collect in groups under the feeder to catch what the other birds drop. I live next to a large field, and also have trees, hedges and wooded areas near my house. Mary Thompson

    David Lindo will be pleased to learn that, here, in semi-suburban Buckinghamshire, we have been entertained and delighted by a pair of bullfinches for the past eight months or so. They are regular visitors to our bird feeder and the male provides a welcome flash of colour on these gloomy winter days. They nested, bred and had a youngster but it disappeared and we suppose that it did not survive. We hope that they will remain with us throughout 2012 as well!

    Jim Ballantyne, Chalfont St. Peter