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Aves bird of the week - Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs

The Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs - is widespread and very familiar throughout Europe. It is the most common finch in Western Europe, and the second most common bird in the Britain. Its range extends into western Asia, northwestern Africa. It was introduced from Britain into a number of its overseas territories in the 18th and 19th centuries. In New Zealand it is a common species. In South Africa a very small breeding colony in the suburbs of Tokai, Constantia, Houtbay, Newlands and Rondebosch, is the only remnant of the introduction. It uses a range of habitats, but open woodland is favored, although it is common in gardens and on farmland. This bird is not migratory in the milder parts of its range, but vacates the colder regions in winter. In South Africa it almost exclusively occupies plantations, alien woodlands, parks and gardens, rarely moving into mountain fynbos.


The Chaffinch's large double white wing bars, white tail edges and greenish rump easily identify this species. The breeding male is unmistakable; it has a pink breast and cheeks, blue-grey crown and nape, and chestnut brown back. In summer, its bill is grey-blue, turning to pale brown in the winter. The female has an olive-brown back, and grey-brown underparts becoming almost white towards the rump, which is greenish. The juveniles are similar to the female but lack the greenish rump. The bill is brown in both the female and juveniles.


You'll usually hear chaffinches before you see them, with their loud song and varied calls. The song can be remembered by the phrase: "chip chip chip chooee chooee cheeoo". Males typically sing two or three different song types. The Chaffinch is well known for its "rain" call which is a repetitive short trill, and a loud "pink pink" call.


The main food of the chaffinch is seeds, but unlike most finches, the young are fed extensively on insects, and adults also eat insects in the breeding season.


It builds its nest in the fork of a tree or shrub and decorates the exterior with moss or lichen to make it less conspicuous. The female lays 3 to 6 eggs, which are greenish-blue with purple speckling.  Incubation by the female for 13 to 16 days. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults and fledge after 14 to 18 days. Breeding in the UK starts in April with 1 or 2 clutches per season. The egg-laying season is from September-November in South Africa.

Conservation Status –Least Concern

In Europe and the UK. In South Africa the range does not seem to be expanding.

Bird watching

These striking finches can be seen on the following Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures: -

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour/Safari/Adventure

Aves West Coast Birding Tour/Safari/Adventure

Aves Day Tours In the Western Cape.

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