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.

  • Thanks to everyone who has posted directly on the blog or who has emailed or written to myself and David. As promised, I'll be adding more of the sightings and comments that were emailed in. Here's some more:

    We regularly have a pair of bullfinches come to the sunflower heart feeder in the garden. This summer we also had at least one juvenile. Earby, on the Lancashire/Yorkshire border. Chris

    I have lived at my current address in Chapmanslade, Wiltshire for over 30 years and until 2 years ago I had never seen a bullfinch here. However, in the very cold winter weather of 2010 a male bullfinch and two females turned up at my birdfeeder and then returned on a regular basis. Unfortunately I have not seen either of the females in the last 6 months but the male continues to turn up and provides a great slash of colour on otherwise dull days.

    Mike Frowde

    Since moving to our current house in October 2010, we've been delighted to have regular visits from bullfinches. They seem to favour sunflower seeds which we have in a feeder hanging from a tree just outside our kitchen window. The females seem particularly to like the waste seeds on the lawn and often feed in a group of 3 or 4 at a time. Our garden backs onto open fields and there is a thick hedge immediately behind the tree containing the feeders. They almost always appear from the cover provided by this hedge. However, they seem to show little fear and are not the secretive bird I remember from childhood visits to my grandmother in Hampshire. They regularly perch in a row on one of the branches of the tree, waiting for a gap in the traffic to the feeder and then fly down to it, sometimes up to 3 on the feeders at once. Margaret Robbie

    Here in our garden in urban/rural Tavistock, Devon we have at least two pairs all the year round. Each year both pairs definitely breed nearby and in due course proudly parade their new young. Usually four per brood and at least two broods per year! Dref  

    I've just been reading the article about bullfinches in my RSPB magazine and was delighted that our garden is currently bucking the trend for bullfinches. We went for about 3 weeks over the Christmas/New Year period without seeing many birds at all in the garden, but we're now back to seeing a pair of bullfinches several times a day, and a couple of pairs every now and then. Despite the fact that the tree next to one of the seed feeders (the one the bullfinches use the most) is an apple tree, I have never seen any of the birds eating any of the blossom and we had a bumper crop of apples last year to back this up!  Nor have I ever seen any of them eating the blossom from the nearby plum tree, so having fruit trees shouldn't put off anybody from encouraging birds into their garden. I hope that this will encourage people to plan and plant for wildlife and let them see that it does pay off in the long term.  It has certainly been successful for us and provided hours of entertainment watching the birds' antics whilst standing at the kitchen sink, and I'm delighted to know that we are helping our local bullfinch population to buck the trend. Sue

    Seen more frequently in my garden over the past couple of years. Currently one pair feeding regularly on bird table & feeders. Seem to like sunflower hearts & black sunflower seeds. They leave my fruit trees alone happily. Gill

    We are lucky to have lots of Bullfinches coming to our garden here in Scotland (Edinburgh). We have at least 7 visiting daily - three pairs and sometimes more.   'Our' birds seem to love what we feed them on - Premium Sunflower Hearts - got expensive taste - we keep our feeders filled regularly both summer and winter and they are regular visitors all year round.  We visit Vane Farm when our seeds are dwindling to find out what is happening in the bird world and pick up our 12.75Kg bags - its all worth-while though as watching the birds gives us a lot of pleasure. John

  • The snow did the trick for me with a brief visit by a pair of bullfinches over the weekend. Annoyingly they didn't come on the feeders but a pair of long-tailed tits did. We also had a snipe, a woodcock and a lapwing trying to find soft ground on the lawns. Presumably the neighbouring fields were frozen too hard for them to stick their beaks in to feed. On the 'Tricho' front, I was pleased to see five greenfinches on our sunflower hearts which is the most I've seen together in my garden. Fingers crossed that all our 'greenies' stay healthy.

  • Had a pair of Bullfinch in our garden for the first time 2 weekends ago, forgot about the article in the magazine asking for sightings sorry!  I was overjoyed to see them as we live in quite an urban area, but there are wooded areas around.  I usually have at least 20 Goldfinch, but last summer our Greenfinch were sadly struck down with Trichomonosis which was confirmed by the Institute of Zoology so I am praying that we don't have a repeat of that again this year :-(

  • Hi mark,

    The snow didn't bring any more Bullfinches into my garden, we had about 8 feeding. But, I did enjoy watching them! :-)

  • Loved the article.  Bullfinches are what started my interest in birds.  We moved into a new house built on an old nursery.  Sadly I hardly ever see them since I moved to Norfolk.  It worries me that they have disappeared.  Strumpshw and Titchwell have them but I haven't seen them.  I am afraid to say that I go to the Hawk and Owl trust at Scultthorpe to see them, good views there.  Must really annoy the warders whnen I show little interest in the Marsh Harriers.  good for Bramblnig as well.

  • Hi Mark,

    There were a pair of Bullfinches in our garden today. The last time I saw a Bullfinch here was in 2004. For your info we live in Meopham Kent, almost on the top of the North Downs.

  • Hi there,  We have bullfinches every year in the garden. I have only seen one pair this year, but some years, we have had 3 different males.  I live Just north of Manchester.

  • Hi, Ref david lindo bullfinches. I have had a pair visiting my garden daily for the last 2 years.  I find they perfer to eat sunflower hearts & peanut granuals (new in to our feed center), and they prefer to eat from the ground under a large honeysuckle bush for safety from the daily visit from a sparrow hawk.

    I live on the edge of a large woodland and get lots of varieties of birds, I spend £20 a week on bird food, I love to watch the long tail tits hanging from a branch by one foot upside down while eating a sunflower heart out of their other foot.  I just spend hours looking out of my kitchen window. Good bird spotting!

  • In response to Birds article "Bullfinches". There was a male in the hawthorn bush in my front garden on 3rd Feb. & a pair eating the buds on our Almond Blossom tree the following day. We live in Treffgarne in Pembrokeshire

  • Hi Evie-bullfinch. Your 19 bullfinches is the most I've ever heard of in a garden!

    I was wondering, over the weekend, whether the snow might bring even more bullfinches into gardens. It certainly brought one into mine, but only brioefly sadly.

    Amanda, glad you got your first one and thanks for getting involved.

    Clarebear, it's great to be able to provide natural food (like buds) as well for birds - hope they didn't take all the buds though!

    Mattydog, it does seem from all the comments as if many gardens act as an occasional refuge for bullfinches when food is a bit scarcer. I think they play a really important role as 'backup'. I had lots more birds in my garden once the snow arrived on Saturday night/Sunday morning. I hadn't seen some of them in weeks!

    Hi Margaret. Interesting to hear about the violet seeds. I stand to be corrected, but I reckon there's a very good chance they will take advantage of the pods. You might not know this, but bramblings (along with bullfinches) are one of my favourite birds, so you've made me very jealous now before I head for home!

    PS. Joel, the Birds designer, was just reminding me (and laughing) that I said "I'll be really pleased if we get three comments on the new bullfinch blog post" before the magazine mailed. It looks like we'll break the three alright - three hundred! I wonder if that's a record on the RSPB Community..

    Thanks everyone - you are great and make my job even more enjoyable!

  • I live in NorthWest Derbyshire, on the edge of the Peak District.   I have a pair of bullfinches that come to feed in my garden and have done so for many years.   They feed on the Niger seed and on various RSPB food that I scatter on the ground.   Question:  do they like the seeds from violets? as, in later summer, they seem to go for the pods after the petals have dropped.  

    We have recently had a flock of bramblings visiting recently that I haven't seen for over a year.   So many birds: greenfinches, blackbirds, chaffinches, a nuthatch, dunnocks, blue- great- & long-tailed tits, sparrows, collar doves, jackdaws, rooks and other birds that I can't identify.

    I love to watch them all at breakfast time and they, above all, like the large plastic water-tank that is usually used in a loft, that we have filled with large stones and then filled with water.   The birds love to perch on the stones have a morning wash and brush-up.   Wonderful start to the day!

  • I have 2 pairs but generally only see two birds at a time, sometimes 2 males but never 2 females together. They love the sunflower and the male(s) like the feeders but the females are more likely to be on the ground (under the shrubs). The first two appeared about 2 years ago and visit the garden daily at the moment but disappear when they have sufficient food 'in the wild' I am near Ipswich, Suffolk but it's very rural - even the fields still have hedges.

  • We rarely see a pair of Bullfinches in our garden in south Ceredigion, West Wales but love it when we do. We back on to farm and woodland and have a mature garden with Ash, Rowan and other trees. Yesterday we were delighted to have a female bullfinch eating the buds from the honeysuckle hanging over the fence for several hours.

    As I'd never seen them use the feeders in the garden I'm glad to read they sometimes do. We have nyjer and sunflower hearts so fingers crossed. I would certainly love to catch them on camera!

  • I am so excited I felt I had to leave a comment. This morning for the first time I saw a Bullfinch in my garden.  I have had Chaffinches, Greenfinches & Goldfinches but never a Bullfinch.  He was around the pond & in my small garden trees.  This is such a great sight as I am in the middle of a housing estate in Hethersett, Norwich.  I spend a fortune on encouraging birds to the garden & have installed various methods of keeping the cats out.

  • Hi Mark,

    We have been lucky enough to have regular visits by bullfinches to our garden. They have visited us since my parents have lived at this house, in South Wales. We feed them with black sunflower seeds. Our garden is quite small, but it backs on to an area of wood. We frequently have 8 bullfinches in the garden, but the record number is an amazing 19!! It is currently snowing with us quite heavily, and there is a pair feeding in the garden.