Eurasian bullfinch

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

SUBFAMILY

Carduelinae

TAXONOMY

Pyrrhula pyrrhula Linnaeus, 1758. Five subspecies are recognized. OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Bullfinch; French: Bouvreuil pivoine; German: Gimpel; Spanish: Camachuelo Común.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The Eurasian bullfinch is a relatively large finch with a body length of about 5.5-6.3 in (14-16 cm) and weighing about 0.8-1.1 oz (22-30 g). They have a short, stout, dark-colored beak. The male is gray on the upper body, with a black head-cap, black wings with a prominent white wing-bar, a reddish belly and sides of head, and white rump. The female and the young are duller, being more brownish pink and lacking the red breast. There is considerable variation in size and coloration among the subspecies.

DISTRIBUTION

The bullfinch ranges widely over Eurasia, occurring in almost all of Europe and most of Asia south of the boreal forest, including the Kamchatka Peninsula and Japan.

HABITAT

The bullfinch inhabits coniferous forest, mountain slopes and ravines, stony edges of deserts, and parks, gardens, and well-vegetated cultivated land.

BEHAVIOR

Bullfinches are shy and wary birds and seldom forage on the ground. They tend to live in family groups, or in small flocks during the non-breeding season. The territorial song is soft, trisyllabic, and creaky.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Bullfinches feed on shoot buds, seeds, and other fruits. Buds are eaten mostly in the winter and spring when the main food of seeds is less abundant.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The female bullfinch constructs a cup-shaped nest of twigs, lichen, and moss in a dense shrub or on a tree limb. The clutch consists of four to six pale-blue eggs marked with reddish brown and is incubated by the female for 12-14 days. The altricial young are brooded by the female and fed by both parents. Fledging occurs in 12-18 days. There are up to two broods per year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Bullfinches are a widespread species and are abundant over most of their range. However, some local populations and subspecies are threatened, including the Azores race, Pyrrhula pyrrhula murina. Populations of bullfinches have declined substantially over much of western Europe since about 1955, likely because of extensive habitat loss through urbanization, deforestation, and the intensification of agricultural practices, including the loss of shrubby hedgerows.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Bullfinches are inconspicuous birds and many people do not realize that they occur nearby. Bullfinches were popular cage-birds in the nineteenth century, but rarely are kept now. ♦

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