Linnet Carduelis cannabina, sat in a hawthorn bush, Durham

Linnet

Linnets are found on farmland wherever there is a plentiful supply of seeds throughout the year. They need lots of seeds throughout the year and thick hedgerows and scrub for nesting.

Linnets in brief

Linnets are found on farmland wherever there is a plentiful supply of seeds throughout the year. The UK population of linnets fell by 54 per cent between 1970 and 1998. This is largely the result of loss of seed sources on farmland.

Key points

  • Boost seed food by providing uncut areas, a wide mix of crops, stubbles or seed-rich wild bird cover crops.
  • Create thick, thorny nesting cover in hedges or by retaining areas of scrub, gorse or bramble.
Linnet, Carduelis cannabina, male perched on gorse

What this species needs

Lots of seeds throughout the year 

Linnets eat small seeds throughout the year. They seek places where they can find lots of seed food. Such areas include rotational set-aside, winter stubbles, root crops and break crops. Oil-seed rape and the associated broad-leaved weeds provide ideal food for chicks in the spring. 

Thick hedgerows and scrub for nesting 

Thick, thorny hedgerow cover will benefit linnets. They also nest in scrub and bramble areas on grassland and waste ground.   

How to help

On set-aside

You can provide seed food throughout the winter at a low cost with small plots (eg one acre) of wild bird cover. Establish a seed-rich crop in the spring and maintain it for two years. Kale, quinoa and rape are particularly useful components.

The natural regeneration of rotational set-aside provides more seed food over winter than non-rotational set-aside. 

Delay using a broad-spectrum herbicide for as long as possible. This will prolong the benefits into the breeding season.

On arable land

A diversity of habitats is important for birds. A wide mix of crops gives the greatest diversity. Different crops provide different feeding opportunities throughout the year. Avoid planting large blocks with a single crop type. In particular, the presence of both spring and winter oilseed rape will provide ripening seed for chicks throughout the breeding season.

Spray and cultivate stubbles as late as possible. This provides important winter feeding habitat. The set-aside options described above are very important on farms where over-winter stubbles are not a viable option.

On grassland

Provide a seed-rich habitat in pastoral areas by introducing arable fodder crops or creating small plots of wild bird cover. Maize is probably not of value to linnets unless it is undersown with a seed-bearing crop such as linseed.

Fence off margins of up to six metres around improved grassland and leave these unfertilised, uncut and ungrazed. Graze or cut in September either annually or every two to three years.

Hedgerow and field margin management

Leave verges and waste ground uncut and unsprayed through the summer to provide seed food. Retain areas of scrub, bramble and gorse as both nesting cover and a food source. Cut ditch-side and field margin vegetation in autumn/winter on a two to three-year rotation. Plant up gaps in hedgerows with native, thorny species which will provide nesting cover.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina, adult female feeding on grain at Hope Farm