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Quick facts

Common names: brambling, mountain finch

Scientific name: Fringilla montifringilla

Family: Fringillidae (finches)

Habitat: woodland

Diet: beech mast, seeds and nuts, berries, insects

Predators: sparrowhawks take adults; chicks and eggs are vulnerable to a range of predators

Origin: native

What do bramblings look like?

Males have a bright orange and white breast, while females are similar but slightly less vibrant. The brambling's wings are black with shades of white and orange and are pale underneath. 

In winter, males have a mottled grey-brown head, which turns jet black during the summer. Females are a similar colour all year round to the winter male. 

Not to be confused with: the chaffinch. Well-built little birds, bramblings are slightly bigger than a chaffinch on average. It can be easy to confuse the two species, but bramblings are distinguishable by their white rump which is visible in flight.

Brambling on ground with leaves and grass

Credit: Mandy West / WTML

What do bramblings eat?

While they are in the UK, bramblings feed mainly on nuts, seeds and berries. The nuts of beech trees are favoured in particular and flocks of birds will travel in search of this food source. In their summer range, they will also take insects and invertebrates, such as caterpillars and beetles.

Goldfinch on branch

Blog

British finches: an identification guide

Amy Lewis  •  28 Feb 2019

A number of finches call the UK home, but can you identify them all? Tell your bullfinch from your brambling with our quick guide.

Did you know?

It’s thought the name brambling derives from the German word 'brâma', meaning bramble or thorny bush.

How do bramblings breed?

The vast majority of bramblings found in the UK do not breed here; instead they fly north to spend the summer in Scandinavia and Russia. A very small number of birds – currently estimated at no more than two pairs – may stay in the UK all year round. They typically lay between five and seven eggs in a nest built within the fork of a tree. The chicks hatch after close to two weeks and fledge around 14 days later.

Brambling in flight in winter with snowy background

Credit: BIOSPHOTO / Alamy Stock Photo

Do bramblings migrate?

The brambling is a winter migrant, flying to the UK to avoid the harsh conditions in Scandinavia and Russia. Birds typically begin to arrive in September and will normally have departed by April.

Where do bramblings live?

Bramblings are a woodland species and favour beech woodland in particular. Flocks may cover large distances while in search of food.

Brambling near mossy rock

Credit: Anne Marie Kalus / WTML

Signs and spotting tips

Look for bramblings moving in flocks through woodland and in adjacent fields. It is not uncommon for groups of bramblings to form mixed flocks with the closely related chaffinch. The species may visit garden bird feeders during times of extreme food shortages.

Brambling song

Audio: Andrew Harrop / xeno-canto.org

Did you know?

Bramblings have been recorded travelling in huge flocks on mainland Europe, with some containing millions of birds.

Threats and conservation

The number of bramblings visiting the UK each year can vary significantly, depending on food supplies. The species is not of conservation concern, although it is vulnerable to the loss of its woodland habitat.