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Quick facts

Common name: bullfinch

Scientific name: Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Family: Fringillidae (finches)

Habitat: woodland, scrub, parks and gardens

Diet: adults eat tree seeds and buds. Young are fed invertebrates.

Predators: sparrowhawks take adults; a range of predators may take eggs and chicks.

Origin: native

What do bullfinches look like?

Male bullfinches are distinctive, with a bright pink-red breast and cheeks and a black cap. Females have a much duller grey-pink breast. Both sexes have a white rump that is particularly noticeable when in fight. They have black wing markings.

Juveniles have a brown head and face, with similar black wing markings to the adults. 

The species has a short, strong beak that is typical of the finch family. In terms of overall size, bullfinches are a little larger than a robin.

bullfinch on branch feeding with blue sky in the background

Credit: Keith J Smith / Alamy Stock Photo

What do bullfinches eat?

Bullfinch diet changes throughout the year. Buds, shoots and flowers are important in spring, while seeds are taken more often in summer and winter. Invertebrates will also be caught to feed chicks in the nest.

Did you know?

Bullfinches have a special sac at the foot of their mouth that can be used to store food.

How do bullfinches breed?

The bullfinch breeds from May to July, and will normally lay four to five eggs. The nest is made from moss twigs and lichen and situated in dense undergrowth. Chicks will fledge at around 15 to 17 days old.

bullfinch on branch

Credit: John Bridges / WTML

Where do bullfinches live? 

The bullfinch is found throughout the UK. It typically occurs in woodland, but can also be found in hedgerows, scrubby areas and even parks and gardens provided there are trees to feed on and dense vegetation to nest in.

Did you know?

Bullfinches were historically considered a pest due to eating the buds of fruit trees, with thousands killed annually.

Signs and spotting tips

Bullfinches are shy birds and are quick to flee around people. If you disturb a flock while walking, your best chance of getting a good view is to quietly wait at a reasonable distance. Keep still and the birds may return. This species is not the loudest of birds, but listen out for their soft, whistling ‘peu’ call.

To attract bullfinches to your garden, put out a selection of seeds and you may be lucky enough to receive a visit.

Bullfinch song

Audio: Alexander Henderson / xeno-canto.org

bullfinch male in flight

Credit: Paul R. Sterry / Alamy Stock Photo

Threats and conservation

Bullfinches are in decline, with an estimated drop of nearly 40% since 1970. Loss and damage of woodland and orchards has been an important factor in this fall, as has the loss of trees and hedgerows in the wider countryside.