A bullfinch appears in our field of vision when winter envelops cities and villages. These are the most famous birds that are active during the cold season, unlike other types of birds. Despite being widely known, not many can boast of knowledge about the types of bullfinches, their habits, and lifestyle. See this post for more details.
View Origin and Description
In summer, few people can notice bullfinches. These are winter birds that have a lot of worries in warm weather and rarely appear in open spaces. At the same time, in summer they change their bright color to a paler one, therefore they are easily disguised among a variety of other birds. By winter, these animals are transformed, they become as active as possible. It is impossible not to recognize them – their coloring combines several bright colors: black, red, white and bluish-gray. This winter outfit makes bullfinches one of the most beautiful birds to appear in winter.
Interesting fact: There are several legends explaining the origin of the bright red chest color of bullfinches. According to one of the most popular, it was this bird that brought fire to people on Earth and along the way it got burned. However, scientists assure that there is nothing mythical in the red plumage. This color is the result of the content of red pigment in the cells of the animal.
The origin of the name “bullfinches” causes controversy among many. Some are sure that these animals began to be called that because of their winter lifestyle. Others claim that the name comes from the Latin “Pyrrhula pyrrhula”, which translates as “fiery” and is associated with the bright plumage of the breast of males. There is also a version that the name “bullfinch” came from the Turkic “snig”, which literally means “red-breasted”.
Bullfinches are also called snowbirds. These animals belong to the bullfinch genus of the same name, which is part of a large family of finches. To date, scientists have identified several subspecies of such birds.
Only three of them live on the territory of Russia:
- Euro-Siberian ordinary. Very common, numerous subspecies. For life, he chooses forest, forest-steppe zones;
- Caucasian common. These are very small birds of bright color, distinguished by a short tail, a “bloated” beak;
- Kamchatka ordinary. Differs in large size, on the tail feathers there are always white spots. Males have a pink breast.
Appearance and Features
Attractive appearance is business snowmen card. Photos of these birds are very popular – they are often published in magazines, newspapers, books, on beautiful New Year’s cards, calendars. Snowbirds are small. They are only slightly larger than their closest relatives, sparrows.
The body length is only eighteen centimeters, the wingspan is thirty centimeters. The body itself has a dense structure, has strong muscles. However, the weight of the bird is small – thirty-five grams. Bullfinches have pronounced sexual characteristics – it is quite easy to distinguish a male from a female.
There are two signs:
- males are distinguished by bright plumage on the chest. Their breasts are always bright red. Only in some subspecies the color is slightly different;
- the breast of the female is decorated in gray. From a certain angle, a slight pinkish tint can be seen.
Otherwise, females and females are endowed with the same color of feathers. The head of the animal is black, the back is painted in gray-bluish. The wings are black and white. Due to the alternation of black and white feathers, the bird’s wings look very bright and unusual. In young animals, the body color is always paler. It only gets brighter with age.
Bullfinches have a very short tail. It is slightly rounded at the end. The upper tail feathers are black, the lower ones are white. The bird also has a small, wide beak. The paws are also small, but quite strong and strong. Each foot has three toes with sharp claws. This structure of the paws allows bullfinches to cling firmly to the bark of trees, small branches.
Where does the bullfinch live?
Snowbirds are small, common birds. They are settled almost all over the world, with the exception of very hot countries. Such animals live in Europe, Asia, Russia, Ukraine, Japan. You can meet individual populations in Greece, Asia Minor, Spain. Such birds are suitable for a temperate climate, with obligatory coolness in winter. It is in winter that bullfinches prefer to be active.
Snowbirds choose low-lying, mountainous forests for life. They are practically not found in treeless areas. Animals living near cities spend a lot of time in squares and parks in winter. Bullfinches can be called sedentary birds. They choose the area for themselves, build nests there and live almost all their lives in one place. In the summer, even in places with a large concentration of bullfinches, it is difficult to notice them. In winter, these animals unite in huge flocks, become very noticeable, change their color to a brighter one.
Only some subspecies of bullfinches periodically change their place of residence. We are talking about adults living in the northern regions of the natural habitat. When severe colds come, these birds turn into nomads. They move to the south, where winter also comes with their appearance.
Now you know where the bullfinch bird lives. Let’s see what this bright winter bird eats.
What does the bullfinch eat?
Bullfinches cannot be called omnivores. They eat a limited set of foods. The most favorite delicacy of these tiny birds is mountain ash. Many people know about this fact, because bullfinches are often depicted in pictures along with bright red mountain ash. On rowan trees, birds feed in flocks. They choose the most berry tree, and all sit down on one branch together. During feeding, males show their gentlemanly qualities. They always let their ladies go first. Thus, females have the opportunity to choose large, ripe, most delicious berries.
However, these animals do not eat the pulp of mountain ash itself. Of these, they prefer to take only seeds. Also, these birds love to eat the seeds of other trees. They choose maple, ash, alder, elder, hornbeam. They fly out in search of suitable food in flocks. It is impossible not to notice the bullfinches, they literally stick around the whole tree.
In summer, the diet of snowbirds is wider. In addition to the seeds of various trees, plant seeds begin to enter it. These birds eat burdock, horse sorrel, quinoa. Many other field herbs are also often eaten. Quite rarely, protein foods in the form of various small insects begin to enter the diet of bullfinches.
Interesting fact: It is no secret that snowbirds are very nimble, fast and agile birds. However, during feeding they are very clumsy. This leads to the fact that the birds do not notice the danger and become victims of the attack of domestic and predatory animals.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Bullfinches can be safely called forest dwellers. Birds spend most of their time on trees, forest glades, in densely planted parks. Among a wide variety of tree species, these animals choose needles. However, they can also live in mixed forests. If earlier bullfinches lived, bred and ate exclusively away from humans, now they have become bolder and often appear next to residential buildings. They can be seen in parks, in the yards of apartment buildings, in public gardens.
Often they fly closer to human settlements due to the need for food. In the forests, especially in winter, it is difficult to find enough suitable food. In the city, for small birds, people hang out feeders. Also in the city there are a lot of rowan trees, on which berries are stored in winter. Despite the fact that bullfinches have become frequent guests in cities, towns, villages, they cannot be called city birds. These are exclusively forest animals.
The lifestyle of bullfinches depends on the season. In winter, these birds are most active. They fly in large flocks from one tree to another in search of seeds. Smaller groups of snowbirds appear next to the feeders. It is not difficult to see bullfinches – against the background of white snow, they look like beautiful Christmas decorations. The bright breast of males favorably distinguishes them from the rest of the birds. In summer, the way of life of animals becomes calmer. The color of their feathers fades, the birds begin to spend more time in the forests, taking care of the house and their offspring.
The nature of snow birds is flexible, calm. These are slow, balanced, cheerful birds. They always show accuracy and discretion. Rarely get into fights. Bullfinches can be domesticated. These animals easily get used to their owner, they know how to show gratitude for food, they can become almost tame.
Interesting fact: In Russia, bullfinches were one of the most popular birds for home keeping. They were often called “Russian parrots”. Animals earned this nickname due to their special talent for imitating various sounds.
Social structure and reproduction
The mating season for bullfinches is as follows way:
- The season begins with a change in the behavior of the males. The birds become more courteous, their voice sounds more pleasant and more melodious. Males begin to dedicate their songs to females, and they are engaged in choosing a suitable partner. Pairs form only in March;
- The next step is nest building. The male, together with the female, begins the selection of a suitable place, the collection of materials. Most often, these animals build houses on spruce forests. Place them high enough and away from the trunk. So they try to protect their future offspring from predators as much as possible. To build a nest, birds use dry grass, twigs, lichen, animal hair, dry leaves;
- in May, the couple have eggs, from which little bullfinches will then hatch. There are not so many eggs in one clutch – about six pieces. They are quite bright, have a blue color with brown specks. The hatching process takes about two weeks;
- bullfinch chicks are born very tiny, helpless. Their only strong quality is the feeling of hunger. Parents have to work all day to feed their offspring.
An interesting fact: Despite their helplessness, bullfinch chicks have fairly good health, wide natural potential. They are developing at a tremendous speed. A few weeks after birth, the chicks learn to fly, and after another two weeks they can lead a completely independent lifestyle.
Natural enemies of bullfinches
Bullfinches, unfortunately, often suffer because of their bright and conspicuous color. Unlike other birds, these animals are more likely to become victims of attacks. Also, the reason for this can be called the natural sluggishness of bullfinches. During feeding, these birds behave carelessly, imprudently. Who attacks the snowbirds?
Some of the most dangerous natural enemies can be identified:
- predator birds. It is not difficult for such animals to catch a small, plump bullfinch. They are attacked by owls, hawks, owls;
- medium-sized predatory animals. Bullfinches can die from the paws of martens, foxes, wild cats. Bullfinch nests are often ruined by squirrels;
- domestic animals. Eating seeds in a clearing, in special feeders within the city, bullfinches run the risk of becoming easy prey for domestic animals. They are often attacked by cats;
- fleas, parasites. Such enemies lie in wait for the birds mainly in the nest. They adversely affect the health of animals, cause them to develop various diseases and even lead to death.
Interesting fact: Bullfinches are quite quick-witted birds. They know they put themselves in danger while feeding. In order to protect themselves at least a little, the birds unite in large flocks. A flock may consist exclusively of bullfinches or even other birds: finches, thrushes. In case of danger, members of the flock give a signal to all other members. Therefore, small bullfinches have a chance to quickly leave an unsafe place without becoming a victim of a predator.
Population and species status
The bullfinch is a beautiful, calm songbird, which is widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia. It lives in large populations in forest, forest-steppe zones. However, snowbirds have recently gotten along well in urban conditions, in close proximity to people. In the wild, birds of this species can live for about seventeen years. At home, subject to all requirements, the animal can live several years longer.
Bullfinches are present in nature in sufficient quantities. Their species has been given the status of “Least Concern”. However, not everything is so rosy. Scientists note that over the past ten years, the population of snowbirds has declined significantly. In some regions of the natural habitat, these animals are even considered rare.
Such a sharp decline is associated with a number of negative factors:
- active development of forests by people. For example, in Russia, only forty-three percent of forests remain intact. The remaining areas are being actively cut down. Bullfinches simply do not have enough living space;
- deterioration of the environment. This is a global problem that over the past hundred years has had an extremely negative impact on the populations of almost all animals, birds, and insects. Bad ecology leads to the rapid death of all living things;
- changes in the composition of the forest. Coniferous forests are getting smaller. Instead, there are many small-leaved ones, but in such forests bullfinches cannot find suitable food for themselves.
The bullfinch is a bird that deserves the title of the most beautiful feathered bird in the winter season. She is small, has a bright color, melodic voice. Such birds live in flocks, easily endure the cold and often fly to people to enjoy treats from the feeders. To date, the population of bullfinches is quite large, but in the last ten years, scientists have noticed a trend towards its reduction. That is why people should pay more attention to these birds, do everything possible for their comfortable and long existence in nature.