Brambling

Fringilla montifringilla

SUBFAMILY

Fringillinae

TAXONOMY

Fringilla montifringiHa Linnaeus, 1758. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Pinson du Nord; German: Bergfink; Spanish: Pinzon Real.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Bramblings are small, stout birds, with a body length of about 5.7 in (14.5 cm). Males have a black head and back, a rich orange throat and breast, wings and tail marked with white and black, and a whitish belly. Females have a similar but much duller coloration. During the winter, males look similar to the females, but they start to molt into their breeding plumage in late winter.

DISTRIBUTION

Bramblings range widely through northern Eurasia, from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia as far as the Kamchatka Peninsula. During the winter, bramblings may wander extensively. In the United Kingdom, for example, it is a sporadic winter visitor, arriving in early October and departing for the more northerly breeding grounds by mid-March.

Fringilla montifringilla

I Resident

HABITAT

Bramblings breed in subarctic birch and willow groves and shrub tundra of the northern boreal and tundra regions. Its common name, brambling, means "the little bramble bird," implying it occurs in thorny thickets, but its natural habitat is actually northern deciduous woodlands and shrubby tundra. During the winter it may occur in more open habitats.

BEHAVIOR

Bramblings are migratory, wandering extensively during the winter. They often occur in mixed flocks with other species of finches. During a particularly cold and snowy winter in 1946-1947, an estimated eleven million bramblings plus other finches were observed feeding on an abundant crop of beech mast (or beech-nuts) at the village of Porrentruy in Switzerland. Each night these innumerable birds gathered in a particular, small valley to roost communally. Winter irruptions of bramblings typically, however, vary greatly from year to year. They are influenced by both local and large-scale weather and snow conditions over their wintering range. In addition, a lack of suitable food in northern parts of the wintering range may trigger immense out-migrations into more southern regions. As such, bramblings are extremely unpredictable in their migratory routes and wanderings, often appearing in the millions in a region in one winter, but not in other years. Bramblings are territorial during the breeding season. The male has a wheezy song, and the birds also have high-pitched, wheezy "yeep" flight calls during the non-breeding season.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Bramblings eat a wide variety of seeds, including the relatively large nuts (or mast) of beech trees.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Bramblings court and mate in the late winter and breed as territorial pairs. They build a cup-shaped nest in a tree or shrub.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. A widespread and abundant species. SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Bramblings are popular birds that enrich the lives of many people. They are sought by birders and other naturalists, and this can result in local economic benefits through ecotourism. ♦

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