Bramblings are widely distributed throughout the Palearctic region. Breeding distribution is throughout Fennoscandia, the Baltic States, and Russia. There is at least one record of a breeding pair in North America on Attu Island, Alaska. The winter range extends from western Europe throughout Eurasia, as far west as Japan. (Flint, et al., 1984; Pforr and Limbrunner, 1982; Sykes Jr. and Sonneborn, 1998)
Bramblings breed in subalpine birch and willow forests, boreal forests, and birch scrub. They appear to feed in shrubby habitat and on the ground in the early breeding season, but almost exclusively feed in trees in less shrubby habitat throughout the rest of the year. Bramblings are found in beech forests and agricultural fields in the winter. During this time, they may become nomadic in their search for a productive beech mast. Suitable wintering habitat is limited by snow cover, because they rely on seeds foraged from the ground. To prevent heat loss and conserve energy, bramblings leave their foraging sites to roost in more sheltered micro-habitats, such as coniferous tree stands situated at altitudes with minimum wind exposure. (Angell-Jacobsen, 1980; Jenni, 1987; Jenni, 1991; Pforr and Limbrunner, 1982; Svensson, et al., 2009)
- Other Habitat Features
Bramblings are medium-sized finches with long wings and tail. They have black tails and white rumps. The wings are mostly black, but the median and lesser secondary coverts are orange, which gives the bird a distinct appearance. Their bellies are white and the flanks have rows of black speckles. Adult males have orange throats throughout the year, while adult females have lightly colored grayish orange throats. On adult breeding males the bill is black while the head varies from mottled gray to completely black. The backs of breeding males are solid black. In non-breeding males, the head is mottled gray, the bill is yellow, and the back is mottled black, orange, and gray. Female bramblings have gray heads and yellow bills throughout the year. The feathers on their backs are gray with orange/brown tips, which give the back a scaled appearance. In flight, bramblings appear long-winged and have relatively long tails. (Lohmus and Silverin, 1999; Sibley, 2000; Svensson, et al., 2009)
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes colored or patterned differently
- Average mass
- 21 g
- 0.74 oz
- Range length
- 14 to 16 cm
- 5.51 to 6.30 in
Shortly after arriving on the breeding grounds, bramblings begin broadcasting for mating partners in small groups. Females seem to select mates based on song and physical characteristics rather than nest site selection. For this reason brambling are not breeding site tenacious, and appear to maintain some of their nomadic behavior during the breeding season.
- Mating System
Male bramblings appear on their breeding grounds in late April and early May. After mating occurs, the nest site is selected by the pair, and the two defend the nesting territory. Territorial males attack intruder males that are in their breeding territory and females attack any intruder near the nest site. They build cup-shaped nests, primarily in the low forks of birch and spruce trees. Nests are made up of grass, hair, birch bark, and moss. Females lay 5 to 7 oval, blue eggs with reddish markings. Incubation lasts 11 to 12 days and the young remain in the nest for up to two weeks. They produce 1 to 2 broods per breeding season. Bramblings have also been shown to be effective in protecting their nests against nest parasites, like common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus), by rejecting eggs that are not similar to their own eggs. (Alsop III, 2006; Lindstrom, 1987; Lohmus and Silverin, 1999; Mikkonen, 1983; Svensson, et al., 2009; Vikan, et al., 2010)
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- Breeding interval
- Bramblings breed once or twice yearly.
- Breeding season
- Breeding begins in late April or early May and extends through the warm season.
- Range eggs per season
- 5 to 7
- Range time to hatching
- 11 to 12 days
- Range fledging age
- 2 (high) weeks
Male and female bramblings defend nesting territories and their young during the breeding season.
Bramblings have been recorded living up to 14.8 years in the wild. (AnAge, 2014)
- Range lifespan
- 14.8 (high) years
- Range lifespan
Bramblings are highly nomadic in the winter and retain some of their nomadism during the breeding season. Males banded on their breeding grounds have been recaptured as far as 600 km from the banding site the next breeding season. Small groups are established during breeding season, and nests are even near each other in sub-alpine birch forests. There is evidence of male aggression at breeding sites and pairs defend nesting territory. Foraging behavior varies from gleaning insects in trees and bushes to picking seeds off of the ground. (Lindstrom, 1990; Lohmus and Silverin, 1999)
Home range size of bramblings is not reported in the literature, they are nomadic, so home range sizes may not be relevant.
Communication and Perception
Bramblings communicate vocally to establish breeding territory and attract mates. Males use a song to attract potential mates. Social chatter is used by roosting birds and call notes are used in flight. These vocalizations can be found at xeno-canto. Lohmus and Silverin (1999) suggested that some breeding males, especially those with lighter colored heads, might use female mimicry to increase mating success and to avoid aggressive interactions with other males. Bramblings are likely sensitive to ultra-violet (UV) light and may use visual cues in the UV spectrum to identify and reject eggs laid by nest parasites. (Avil and Moller, 2004)
During the winter, bramblings roosts can be as large as 20 million birds. Bramblings rely on beech mast in most of their range and densities are highest where beech mast is the greatest. They are also known to feed on seed in large agricultural fields in other parts of their range. During the breeding season, nomadism has been correlated to the abundance of the larva of Epirrita autumnata, a geometrid moth. These moths are an important food source for nestlings and juveniles. Bramblings will eat other seeds and insects as well. (Jenni, 1987; Lindstrom, 1987)
- Primary Diet
- Animal Foods
- Plant Foods
- seeds, grains, and nuts
Bramblings are likely preyed on by aerial predators, such as small hawks and falcons.
- Known Predators
- raptors (Falconiformes)
Winter roosts can reach population sizes of several million birds. They scan large areas for suitable beech mast crops. Because they gather in such large numbers, they presumably play an important role as seed predators at foraging sites. Breeding bramblings may also be important predators of geometrid moth larvae. During migration they are preyed upon by several species of predatory birds. Common cuckoos are nest parasites of bramblings, although bramblings seem to be able to detect and reject their eggs. (Jenni, 1987; Lindstrom, 1987; Lindstrom, 1990)
- common cuckoos (Cuculus canorus)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Direct benefits of bramblings have not been described, although they do enrich the lives of bird-watchers, naturalists, and wildlife enthusiasts. Their predation on moth larvae and insects may positively impact agriculture and silviculture.
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
Bramblings have no known negative impacts on human economies.
Bramblings are common throughout most of their range. There is an estimated 13,000,000 to 22,000,000 breeding pairs in Europe alone and the breeding range extends as far as the Aleutian Islands. Bramblings are not considered threatened because of their large population size and large geographic range. (Butchart and Eckstrom, 2013)
David Essian (author), Northern Michigan University, Alec Lindsay (editor), Northern Michigan University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
- 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.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
- active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.
- female parental care
parental care is carried out by females
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
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).
- male parental care
parental care is carried out by males
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
Having one mate at a time.
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.
generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
- scrub forest
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
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.
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
uses sight to communicate
Alsop III, F. 2006. Smithsonian Birds of North America. East Rutherford, New Jersey: DK Publishing.
AnAge, 2014. "Fringilla montifringilla" (On-line). An Age: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Data. Accessed January 28, 2014 at http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Fringilla_montifringilla.
Angell-Jacobsen, B. 1980. Overlap in feeding between willow warbler Phylloscopus trochilus and brambling in two forest habitats in Western Norway. Ornis Scandinavica, 11: 146-154.
Avil, J., A. Moller. 2004. How is host egg mimicry maintained in the cuckoo (Cuculus canorus)?. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 82: 57-68.
Butchart, S., J. Eckstrom. 2013. "BirdLife International" (On-line). Accessed May 01, 2013 at http://www.birdlife.org.
Flint, V., R. Boehme, Y. Kostin, A. Kuznetsov. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR.. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Jenni, L. 1987. Mass concentrations of Bramblings Ornis Scandinavica, 18: 84-94.in Europe 1900-1983: Their dependence upon beech mast and the effect of snow cover.
Jenni, L. 1991. Microclimate of roost sites selected by wintering Bramblings Ornis Scandinavica, 22: 327-334..
Lindstrom, A. 1987. Breeding nomadism and site tenacity in the Brambling Ornis Fennoscandia, 64: 50-56..
Lindstrom, A. 1990. The role of predation risk in stopover habitat selection in migratory Bramblings, Behavioral Ecology, 1: 102-106..
Lohmus, M., B. Silverin. 1999. Male aggressiveness and the possible occurence of group territoriality in the Brambling Ornis Scandinavica, 9: 75-82..
Mikkonen, A. 1983. Breeding site tenacity of the chaffinch Fringilla coelebs and the brambling in Northern Finland. Ornis Scandinavica, 14: 36-47.
Pforr, M., A. Limbrunner. 1982. The breeding birds of Europe II. London, England: Croom Helm.
Sibley, D. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Svensson, L., K. Mullarney, D. Zetterstrom. 2009. Birds of Europe: Second Edition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
Sykes Jr., P., D. Sonneborn. 1998. First breeding records of whooper swans and brambling in North America at Attu Island, Alaska. The Condor, 100: 162-164.
Vikan, J., B. Stokke, J. Rutila, E. Huhta, A. Moksnes, R. Eivin. 2010. Evolution of defences against cuckoo (Cuculus canorous) parasitism in bramblings ( ): A comparison of four populations in Fennoscandia. Evolutionary Ecology, 24: 1141-1157.