The Greenfinch is a chunky-looking finch, with the male bird having an olive-green back and bright yellow patches on its wings and tail, and the female having duller plumage with streaky upper parts. Juvenile Greenfinches are similar to the female, but browner. Greenfinches have gradually colonised urban gardens over the last fifty years or so, and partly because of the loss of grain and weed seeds due to intensive farming methods. They have a typical seed-eaters powerful triangular beak, are gregarious outside the breeding season and make a distinctive trilling call.
Greenfinch diet and food
The diet is fairly varied and although the primary food is seeds, in the breeding season insects, including beetles, are eaten and fed to the young birds. Buds and shoots are also eaten. In the garden, Greenfinches have hugely taken to food such as peanuts and black sunflower seeds put out for them. Indeed, without this food supply and given the massive decline in natural seed sources as a result of intensive farming, the current UK Greenfinch population would almost certainly be much smaller.
Greenfinch nesting and breeding habits
The nest is a rather untidy affair and generally located in a fork of a tree close to or up against the trunk or large branch, or main stem of a shrub. Ornamental conifers and evergreen shrubs are favoured sites in gardens and parks. The nest, which is built by the female bird alone, consists of twigs, plant stems, grasses and moss, then lined with hair, fine plant materials and possibly feathers. There are two to three broods each year, with between four to six eggs in each brood. Both male and female feed the young. Typically, Greenfinches nest in very loose colonies.
Behaviour traits of Greenfinches
Although gregarious both in and outside the breeding season (though more so outside), Greenfinches are notorious for squabbling between themselves and other birds such as Goldfinches at feeding stations – and if the squabble is with another species then the Greenfinch will normally win any dispute.
Video footage of Greenfinches
Greenfinch history and population trends
The population trend of the Greenfinch has been up and down over many decades, with large declines up until the early 1980s, then a period of stability, then a sharp increase in the 1990s (perhaps due to the increase in the popularity of garden bird feeding), and then decline in the last decade or so due to trichomonosis – a nasty disease caused by a single cell parasite which prevents the bird feeding properly and results in its death. Unfortunately, the spread of the disease can partly be blamed on feeding stations which are not kept clean, plus birds feeding in very close proximity on feeders and on the ground.