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.
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 email@example.com and I'll add your stories to the blog.
Hello Mark, Bullfinches have been visiting my garden since I've known, The young sit on the top of the line which I hang the feeders from (stops the squirrels, I give them their own food supply) and they make a right racket, the parents get all flustered, rushing their own dinner down and then practically pushing them off the line and into the hedge to keep them safe. There are several pairs, the males and females often watch out for each other from a higher point whilst t'other is feeding, which I find very endearing.
Hi Mark, since the beginning of October i have had 2 pairs of Bullies coming to feed on the bramble bushes in the garden. They first came about 3 years ago and i now look forward to seeing them daily. They are so close that i really don't need binoculars to see the detail of their markings. I don't put out any feeders for them but do have between 8 and 10 Goldfinches visiting daily as well and feeding on niger. What if anything would Bullies take from a feeder ?
Hi Birdie Wild and Jimbo.
Thanks for being the first to post Birdie Wild! Love the picture you have painted with your words about the flustered parent bullfinches. Interesting to hear about the teamwork that goes on around the keeping guard. Thinking about it, I often see either a female or a male alone on the feeder at my 'in laws', so next time I'm there I'll make sure I look a bit more closely to see if the other one is on guard. Great to know you have them in your garden - and well done for keeping them obviously very happy and well fed.
Jimbo, thanks for your story too. Sounds as if you have plenty of natural food in your garden for the bullfinches, which is great news. You clearly know how to garden in the right way for wildlife. Brambles may not be the gardener's friend, but they are terrific for wildlife - I always let a few grow in my garden in some quieter, out of the way spots where they won't snag anyone.
Sunflower hearts are popular with bullfinches (although as I said in my blog, sadly they haven't come in to my new garden yet!). You could put them in a hanging seed feeder, or one on a pole, or scatter them on a birdtable, as bullfinches will also visit them.
Hi Jimbo, yes, as Mark said, they love sunflower hearts, As well as the feeders,I also put the hearts on the ground and on the tables and scatter suet pellets along with them. They love fruit buds and yes Mark, I agree, I too allow brambles to grow quite freely in the hedges and nettles too, which attract the insects. Also Jimbo, you will find that the Goldfinches will eat the sunflower hearts, I find they prefer them and I don't put nyjer out at all. Yes Mark you will very often see the other one somewhere above, they will keep guard, especially when ground feeding and then they will swap places, wonderful stuff !!:-)
We have had a pair of bullfinches in our garden for several years. Last year they had young. Seen most days on the feeders.
Good evening Jimbo, we started feeding garden birds about 5 years ago after a green wood pecker absolutely enchanted us, raking around the grass for about 15 minutes. Since then, we graduallly acrued different birds, putting out different foods and different hangers as we gradually found out which birds were in the area and lo and behold, we now have up to 10 chaffinches visit us most days. They tend to sit in the tree for a few minutes and then swoop down to pick up the Rspb sun flower seeds that the gold finches throw out (what messy eaters they are!) Rarely see them on the feeders though perhaps they just find it easier to scavange, rather than work for their meal haniging onto small perches ;-)
There have been a few bullfinches in our garden the last couple of winters. Before that they were most unusual for us. I suspect that some birds bred nearby last year; they were using our feeders throughout the breeding season. This year there are up to 6; at least 4 males and 2 females. They seem to like both the general seed mix and sunflower hearts, feeding from the table, the ground and feeders. They mix ok with the other finches, green and gold as well as the tits etc.
Hi, Carol C sent this email into the Birds magazine office on the 7/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings;
I have just received my bird magazine, in reading the article on bullfinches I live in a small village in Norfolk called Kenninghall, at the back of my house is a wood, filled with Hawthorn, at the moment I have three pairs of bullfinches, last year two pairs they visit my garden everyday, I am a lover of birds and have 15 feeders in my garden, so hopefully my bullfinches will continue to grow, hope this information is helpful.
Hi, Graham T sent this email into the Birds magazine on the 7/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings, and I'm forwarding the information to the blog for him.
While reading your latest issue (page 77) regarding bullfinches on Saturday 7 January 2012, I am looking out of my study window at our resident bullfinch family – a mature male, mature female and, I believe, their son – almost mature but not quite so magnificent as his Dad! (I tried to put this on your magazine blog but, being of a certain age, the technology defeated me!)
They are resident in our garden and appear regularly but somewhat infrequently – several weeks may go by with no sightings, then they will suddenly appear and stay in the garden often for an hour or more if not disturbed. I have had the pleasure of looking at them out of my window on feeding plants that are less than four feet from my eye. I believe them to be rather shy birds but I seem to be able to look at them through the window without them seeing me. They feed on a variety of seeds but never on the birdfeeders. It is always a great pleasure to see them.
Hi, John S sent this email into the Birds magazine office on the 9/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings;
What a lovely article by David Lindo about the bullfinch.
In our garden on Thwaite Common in North Norfolk we are lucky to see these thrilling birds regularly (five from a bedroom window on one occasion) and their strange tuneless calls can be heard in every month of the year, even as I type now.
As a filmmaker I included a section about Ted Hughes’s poem “The Bullfinch” in a film about poetry and wildlife called “The Song of the Earth”. Hughes writes of the “tin whistle half note” the “flaming shirt” and “his Persian plum plush wedding regalia”. When feeding on the buds of a tree they remind me of a parrot with that very slow deliberate movement along the branch. Yes, they feed on our fruit trees but always leave enough fruit for us and they’re more than welcome anyway.
Hi, Carole T-T sent this informtation into the Birds magazine office on the 9/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings:
Regarding the article by David Lindo -a few years ago our resident bullfinches began to feed from our seed feeders (as opposed to scavenging underneath) and subsequently taught their fledged youngsters. At the present time we have a maximum of five females and two males all on the feeders at the same time, a great sight. Hope this helps to balance the lack of bullfinches elsewhere.
Hi, Peter & Mavis B sent this email into the Birds magazine office on the 10/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings:
From various comments on Springwatch, and in Birds magazine there seems to be a shortage of Bullfinches.
We have a suburban garden in Sheffield, and have had a resident pair for two years. The count has gone up and we now have 3 males and 3 females who are regularly seem feeding at the same time (that is how we know we are not “double counting”.
We have also a female sparrow hawk who regularly takes collared doves, and recently took a woodpigeon
Hi, Ro D sent this email into the Birds magazine mailbox on the 10/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings:
Hi! I have a Bullfinch visiting my Bramley apple tree. He’s been coming for a couple of weeks or so. I haven’t actually seen him on the bird feeder I’ve hung in the tree, but I suspect he is preferring to wait until all those fat juicy apple buds make an appearance! I live close to the North Downs Way on the top of the hill in the village of Shepherdswell, near Dover. The garden is open and very exposed to the elements on three sides – the other is bounded by the next garden full of trees. My garden attracts a lot of birds, including woodpeckers, goldfinches, and coal tits. There are newts in the pond and the local Buzzard glides overhead.
Hi, Lesley P sent this email into the Birds magazine mailbox on the 10/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings:
We have recently moved house and set up a new feeding station with lots of gourmet recipe choice for the birds. On Saturday morning I was watching when 3 bull finches landed and all fed together on the Niger seeds. Along side them a coal tit, blue tit and great tit all fed together as well. Lovely and the bull finches keep returning
Hi, Jean E-D sent this eamil into the Birds mailbox on the 11/1/12 regarding Bullfinch sightings:
In response to Birds article by David Lindo I wish to report that 4 bullfinches spent at least half an hour in our garden in Tunbridge Wells at 9am today.