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(Common) Chaffinch

Male Chaffinch
Male: Pink underparts, grey crown, and two white wing bars.
Female Chaffinch
Female: Olive-brown upperparts with pale underparts.

The Chaffinch is our commonest finch and has striking double white wing bars. The wing bars are formed by white patches on the wing coverts, and primary and secondary wing feathers. Its summer plumage is brighter that its winter plumage.

The male Chaffinch has a pink breast and cheeks, blue-grey crown and nape, and chestnut brown back. In summer, its bill is grey-blue, turning to pale brown in the winter.

The female has an olive-brown back, and grey-brown underparts becoming almost white towards the rump, which is greenish. The juveniles are similar to the female but lack the greenish rump. The bill is brown in both the female and juveniles.

The Brambling is similar but has white rump and all-black tail, the Chaffinch has white outer tail feathers in both sexes. They often form mixed flocks in the winter; the Brambling's white rump and Chaffinch's white wing bars are diagnostic features.

Being our commonest finch it is sometimes easy to overlook its beauty despite the male possibly having more colours in its plumage than any other British bird.

Male Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch
Female Chaffinch
Female Chaffinch

Scientific Name Fringilla coelebs
Length 14.5 cm (6")
Wing Span 24.5-28.5 cm (10-11½")
Weight 18-29 g (¾-1 oz)
Breeding Pairs 5400000
Present All Year
Status Green

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The Chaffinch is well known for its "rain" call which is a repetitive short trill, and a loud "pink pink" call.

The song can be remembered by the phrase: "chip chip chip chooee chooee cheeoo".


© Jean Roché,
Rain Call

© Jean Roché,


Chaffinches usually feed on seeds and insects, like caterpillars, during the breeding season.

In the garden, they tend to forage on the ground for spilt seed (sunflower seeds and hearts) from the hanging feeders.


The Chaffinches build a neat cup nest from moss, grass, and feathers bound with spiders' webs, lined with feathers and wool, and decorated with lichen and flakes of bark. The nest is usually in a fork of a tree or shrub.

The eggs of the Chaffinch are about 20 mm by 15 mm in size, and are smooth, glossy, and light blue with purple-brown blotches. The duties of incubating the eggs are performed by the female. The newly-hatched young are fed by both adults.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 1-2 2-8 10-16 11-18


Resident birds are mostly sedentary with juveniles moving only short distances from the place where they were hatched.

Between September and March, the population increases with 10-20 million immigrants from Scandinavia and Western Europe looking for food. These birds are usually found in large flocks on open farmland, whereas resident British birds are usually in woodlands and hedgerows.


Chaffinch populations were affected in the 1950s by use of agricultural chemicals and changes in farming practice, but now seems to be doing all right.