Pyrrhula pyrrhulaEurasian bullfinch

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Geographic Range

Across Europe and Asia from the British Isles through Japan.

Habitat

Except for in Japan and Britain, where they inhabit deciduous woodland and cultivated grounds, Bulfinches are found in coniferous or mixed woodlands.

Physical Description

The Bullfinch is a small bird, about six inches in length. The male has a distinctive black cap, rose-red underparts, and white rump. The female and juveniles are more pinkish-grey in color.

Reproduction

Bullfinches construct nests containing fine twigs with moss and lichen intertwined and a lining of black roots and shrubs. Nests are usually placed only a few feet above ground. There are sometimes up to three clutches of 4-5 eggs laid during the season, which spans early May to mid-July. Chicks hatch out in about two weeks and are fed a mixture of seeds and insects. The male Bullfinch helps the female incubate the eggs, andhe also feeds her while she sits on the nest. He later assists the female in collecting food for the young.

Lifespan/Longevity

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    12.6 years
    AnAge

Behavior

The Bullfinch can be seen throughout the year in pairs or in small family parties. In the spring, they also may form flocks of about fifty (rarely over one hundred) birds. Bullfinches generally are shy, perching within the cover of trees, not often on the ground. It reveals its presence through its penetrating low whistle "piping" song.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Bullfinches feed primarily on buds and seeds. The buds from fruit trees, especially woodland trees, are eaten exclusively in the spring. A bullfinch feeds on the buds by landing on the tip of a branch and slowly moving towards the trunk, stripping the bud as it goes. However, it is only when supplies of seeds remaining from the previous summer and autumn diminish that bullfinches attack buds. In deciduous woods, bullfinches demonstrate a preference for the seeds of dock, nettles, privet, bramble, birch and ash. These seeds are the main food supply until buds begin to develop.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Bullfinches inflict serious damage on orchards by feeding on the buds of fruit trees. This has been a serious problem, especially in south-east England, where orchards capable of yielding several tons of fruit have been stripped by bullfinches so efficiently that only a few pounds could be harvested.

Conservation Status

Only 1/3 of all clutches in woodland and 2/3 of those in farmlands live to adulthood. The remaining are eaten by predators, which are mainly jays, magpies, stoats, and weasels. The Bullfinch has been persecuted in England since the 16th century. Nevertheless, numbers continue increasing and more efficient ways of killing them are constantly being sought.

Contributors

Candice Middlebrook (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

taiga

Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

Burton M. and Burton R. 1980. The New Funk and Wagnalls Illustrated Wildlife Encyclopedia, Volume II. BPC Publishing Ltd.

Heinzel, H. 1972. The Birds of Britain and Europe. William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd. London.