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.
Video footage of Greenfinches
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.
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.
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.
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.
What should I feed Greenfinches?
We recommend the following products to help attract Greenfinches to your garden.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do Greenfinches build their nests?
Greenfinches build their nests in tall trees, shrubs and hedges, with leylandii being a particular favourite.
How do I attract Greenfinches to my garden?
Sunflower hearts or black sunflower seeds are the best foods to attract Greenfinches to your garden, with a hanging tube feeder being ideal for either.
How rare are Greenfinches?
Greenfinch numbers have hugely declined in recent decades, with the disease Trichcomonosis being largely responsible. Greenfinches are also very susceptible to salmonella poisoning in gardens, which is often the result of dirty seed feeders and rotting seed waste from foods such as black sunflower seeds. All this has led to a situation where Greenfinches are certainly rarer than they should be.
Do Greenfinches stay around all year?
Most Greenfinches stay relatively close to where they were born and throughout the year, though some do move further south in the winter, and some even make it to continental Europe.
Where do Greenfinches sleep?
Greenfinches favour evergreen trees and hedges to roost and sleep overnight, with leylandii in gardens being a key habitat for this.