Species Of The Week Number 51: Bullfinch

One of my favourites for this, the penultimate Species of the Week, as we approach the end of our year-long Bioblitz - mapping the wildlife in the Meanwood Valley.

The Bullfinch is one of the four commoner finch species that you can see in Meanwood, the others being Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. In the winter you can also sometimes catch rarer members of the finch family: Siskin, Brambling and Lesser Redpoll.

All the finches have adapted beaks for eating seeds but only the Bullfinch has a special carrying space in its mouth for storing extra food. The benefit of this is fewer trips back to its nest, which itself is really two nests, one inside the other and made of different materials.

Whilst Bullfinches have a unremarkable call, a short low whistle, in Victorian times they were prized (and kept in cages) for their ability to mimic other sounds. Tess in Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles had the job of whistling to the bullfinches as she went about her household tasks.

The Bullfinch can be particularly keen on fruit buds which did it no favours in the 16th century. It was one of a list of species names specifically in the 1532 Preservation of the Grain Act whereby every man woman and child was required to kill as many of these 'vermin' as possible. You were rewarded with half a penny for every Bullfinch head you provided as proof of your kill (it was 12 pence for a fox or a badger head). Stoats and Kingfishers were also on the list.

Our Bullfinches are now protected - not persecuted -by the law, and can go about their business peacefully. They generally do this in pairs, who mate for life. If you are so lucky to see a flock of Bullfinches, evidence shows that pairs still join and leave the flock together. My own bird feeders are also evidence that this is true. The one in the video knocked itself out by flying into our kitchen window but, as you can see, recovered to live another day.

Publicado el 20 de septiembre de 2023 por clunym clunym


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