Bullfinch – 2003-07 breeding

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLAN – Breeding resident

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed13972
Breeding probable73185
Breeding possible12763
No of tetrads occupied339 (of 478)320 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads70.9%65.3%

The Bullfinch is a relatively common resident of large gardens, hedgerows and lightly wooded areas, including young plantations. It is absent from the islands, the Preseli tops and apparently the extremities of the Marloes and St. David’s peninsulas.

This is a large bright finch, in which the male is particularly conspicuous, with bright pink front, greyish blue back and black cap; the female shows a similar pattern but duller, both have a conspicuous white rump in flight. It feeds on new buds in spring, making make this species a pest to some ornamental and commercial growers.  However, it never appears in flocks, usually only in pairs or family groups.

The Bullfinch may make its simple nest in thick scrub 2-3m above the ground. It is seemingly quite secretive, with a low proportion of confirmed breeding recorded. 

It was estimated during the 1984-88 survey there was a breeding density of 10-15 pairs per tetrad, producing a population estimate of 4-5,000 pairs for the county. The breeding distribution maps look broadly the same, but there is a lower (c. 50%) proportion of records of confirmed breeding, and a corresponding increase in probable breeding.  With no known difference in surveying methods, is this a sign that the population is lower and not as easy to find and therefore confirm breeding? Should the BTO’s BBS (1994-2007) decline in the population across the UK of 18% be considered a fair measure for Pembrokeshire? If so then perhaps a lower density per tetrad should be considered giving rise to a population at the lower range of that given for 1984-88, probably nearer the 4,000 pairs for the county.

Richard Dobbins

More about the Bullfinch in Pembrokeshire