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Both sexes: Stocky bird with rusty-brown plumage and large conical bill.

The Hawfinch is a large, heavily built finch with a large head, "bull-neck" and a powerful, conical shaped bill.

The back is a rusty-brown, the breast and belly are buff and the head is orange-brown with a black bib and grey neck. The wings are glossy blue-black with a broad white wing patch. The ends of the secondary flight feathers are splayed and twisted to form curiously shaped ends. The tail is short with a broad white terminal band. The bill is grey-blue in summer, yellow in winter and the legs are pale brown.

Juvenile heads are more orange coloured and lack black markings, and their breast is grey-yellow and the belly is darkly spotted.

Hawfinches are similar in size and colour to Waxwings, but these are winter visitors and have a crest.

Scientific Name Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Length 18 cm (7")
Wing Span 29-33 cm (11½-13")
Weight 48-62 g (1¾-2¼ oz)
Breeding Pairs 4750
Present All Year
Status Red

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


The most common call of these quiet birds is a sharp, Robin-like "tic tic".


© Jean Roché,


The mandibles and their muscles are so powerful they can crush cherry stones by applying a force of over 500 kN, which is equivalent to about 60 tonnes for a human, so that they can eat the cherry seed, of which they are particularly fond.

Other large tree seeds, such as hornbeam and beech, as well as hips and haws of hedgerows are also among their diet. In the spring they feed on oak buds, and then in the summer they feed on insects, such as beetles.


The nest is a flimsy saucer-shaped construction of twigs, grass and lichen in the fork of a branch in a large deciduous tree of woodland, parkland, orchards or large gardens.

The female incubates the eggs (24 mm by 17 mm), which are smooth, glossy and light blue or greyish-green with sparse blackish markings. The young are fed by both parents.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
late-April 1-2 2-7 9-14 10-14


During the winter the British population can almost double as northern European birds migrate to Britain, but British birds are mostly sedentary, though some may migrate.


This large bird is shy and cautious, spends most of its time high in the canopy of large trees or flying quickly between trees and as a result is quite difficult to observe. Further, although their elusiveness makes accurate monitoring difficult, the population has declined in recent years and they are now a red list species of conservation concern.