Greenfinch: the bird profiles

Hannah
Hannah
Hannah
Hannah

I am particularly interested in garden wildlife which is why I did my Master's degree with a focus on "animal ecology". I am convinced that beneficial insects and wildlife are a sustainable and effective alternative to many of the products we use on our plants. I am also a passionate birdwatcher and rarely go for a walk without my binoculars.

Favourite fruit: kiwi, apple and redcurrant
Favourite vegetables: tomatoes and green beans

Greenfinches are indeed green. But there’s a lot more going on with the little finch than that! Here’s everything you should know about the greenfinch.

Three greenfinches: two in flight, one on a branch
The greenfinch is a lively fellow [Photo: Manzetta/ Shutterstock.com]

The greenfinch (Chloris chloris or Carduelis chloris) is a songbird common throughout Europe. With beautiful yellow-green plumage, greenfinches are real eye-catchers and easy to spot, even for the inexperienced birdwatcher. In 2005, British greenfinches were found to be infected with a deadly parasite called Trichomonas gallinae. The parasite soon spread throughout Europe, but has since been contained, and greenfinch populations have recovered well. Nevertheless, if you do come across sick or dead birds, report them to the RSPB. And be sure to regularly clean feeding stations and bird baths to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases. Read on to find out more about our colourful native songbird!

Greenfinch: key facts

SizeAbout 15cm
WeightAbout 35g
Breeding seasonApril-June
LifespanApproximately 5 years
HabitatOpen areas, parks and gardens
Food preferencesPlant seeds, leaf and flower buds
ThreatsDecline in natural habitat and Trichomonas gallinae

How to recognise the greenfinch

The greenfinch is a rather large, compact songbird. Characterised by a strong, triangular beak, typical for finches, and striking plumage, greenfinches are predominantly green, with grey and yellow embellishments. Their wings are crossed with yellow bands making greenfinches especially conspicuous in flight. Wherever you see a greenfinch however, given its colour, you’ll be hard pressed to mistake it for any other bird!

: A colourful greenfinch on a branch
The greenfinch lives up to its name [Photo: YK/ Shutterstock.com]

How to recognise a young greenfinch

With a strong, finch beak and yellow bands on the wings, young greenfinches are easy to spot. In contrast to their parents, however, young greenfinches are not yet vibrant green, so you will have to look out for their subtle, grey lines.

Two greenfinch chicks perched
Young greenfinches are not as colourful as their parents [Photo: stmilan/ Shutterstock.com]

How to recognise a greenfinch egg

Greenfinch eggs are white and covered with small, red-brown speckles. Females lay between four and six eggs in a nest of twigs, grass and moss, which is padded with small roots and animal hair.

How to tell the difference between male and female greenfinches

At first sight, male and female greenfinches appear very similar. Upon closer inspection, however, you should be able to spot the female’s lack of green – female greenfinches are generally more brown or grey, but this does depend on the light. In any case, it is easier to spot this difference when they are perched next to one another. Have a look below!

A male and female greenfinch perch next to one another
The male greenfinch (left) is more vibrant than the female [Photo: Dervis Kokenek/ Shutterstock.com]

What is the perfect habitat for greenfinches?

Greenfinches prefer semi-open habitats. This can include sparse forests, the edge of dense woodland, groups of trees in a park, cemeteries and gardens. Greenfinches are flexible when it comes to weather too, distributing themselves throughout Europe and bordering parts of Africa and Asia.

Where do greenfinches build their nests?

Greenfinches will build their nests in any woody plants: trees, shrubs or creepers. But watch out, greenfinches nest in small colonies of up to six breeding couples. Together, they aggressively defend their territory and nests from competitors, predators and robbers.

When is breeding season for greenfinches?

Greenfinches breed from April until June. Between one and three broods are possible in this time, as a female incubates her eggs for only 10 to 14 days, while her partner provides her with food. After hatching, greenfinch chicks remain under the wings of their mother for a few more days to maintain warmth, before the juveniles are fed with regurgitated seeds by their parents.

Greenfinch eggs in a nest
The female greenfinch lays between four and six eggs [Photo: Vishnevskiy Vasily/ Shutterstock.com]

Where do greenfinches spend winter?

When they aren’t incubating eggs, greenfinches are extraordinarily sociable. In winter, they will flock with other finches or buntings to look for food as a group. What is more, greenfinches form “sleep-communities” to maintain warmth. Most UK greenfinches are resident, but we are joined in winter by migrating greenfinches from Scandinavia.

What does a greenfinch’s song sound like?

The greenfinch’s song has two parts. The first consists of melodic trills and fast whistles. The second is a long wheezing tone, which is performed as a solo or alongside the trills and whistles.

Help the greenfinch!

With a decline in natural habitat, the greenfinch is retreating into parks and urban areas. If you would like to support this small, green bird in your garden, here are some practical tips on creating a greenfinch paradise.

What do greenfinches eat?

Greenfinches are vegetarian, eating plant and tree seeds, which they split open with their powerful beaks. They are also partial to berries, like rose-hip, as an important source of nutrients.

To support the greenfinch during winter, put out some seeds. The seeds should be protected from rain and, to prevent the birds from contaminating their own food supply with excrement, place the food in such a way, that they cannot sit whilst they eat. Tips for building and maintaining your own feeding station can be found in our article on building your own bird feeder.

Greenfinches at a bird feeder in snow
Greenfinches are easy to spot in winter, feeding [Photo: Gints Ivuskans/ Shutterstock.com]

Which birdhouses are suitable for greenfinches?

Birdhouses with small entrances are unsuitable for greenfinches; they prefer open nests. As such, consider tying some branches together in a bundle – preferably coniferous branches – and affixing them to the trunk of a tree, as support for a future nest. As well as this, you can provide natural nesting sites for the greenfinch by allowing your hedges and creepers to grow out.

How can I support greenfinches even more?

If you would like to support greenfinches year round, plant seed-bearing and berry-bearing plants. Find out more about how to do this and which plants are best in our article “Designing a bird-friendly garden”.

Birds that eat seeds, such as the greenfinch, are reliant on a sufficient water supply. A simple bird bath can do wonders! Be sure to regularly clean it out to prevent the spread of disease. A bird bath like this will be loved by many more garden birds, including thrushes and chiffchaffs.

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