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

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Bullfinch in Pembrokeshire

Bullfinch – 1994

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLANBreeding resident

1984-88
Breeding confirmed139
Breeding probable73
Breeding possible127
No of tetrads occupied339 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads70.9%

A common resident according to Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949), Bullfinches are generally distributed in Pembrokeshire, being absent only from open areas such as mountain tops, exposed headlands and offshore islands, although they have bred at Caldey since at least 1924 (Wintle 1924).

Secretive in manner and difficult to census, the majority of records from the Breeding Birds Survey of 1984-1988 refer to possible and probable breeding and they may have been missed in some areas. An estimate of 10-15 pairs per tetrad suggests a total of 4,000-5,000 breeding pairs.

The Bullfinch is generally regarded as sedentary, but there is at least some degree of mobility, for up to three at a time have reached Skomer on seven occasions. Groups of up to 12 sometimes gather at bird-cherries in the autumn and at least 30 were mixed with Chaffinches in stubble at Sandy Haven in January 1988.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

WINTLE, W.J. 1924. Some Caldey birds Pax 71:133-139.

More about the Bullfinch in Pembrokeshire

Bullfinch – 1980s winter

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLANBreeding resident

The BTO winter atlas showed that Bullfinches were present in most 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84.

The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 15 birds recorded in a day. The largest gatherings were due to birds from the surrounding neighbourhood gathering at good local food sources.

Graham Rees. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

Data collected by volunteers for the BTO. Lack, P. 1986 Atlas of wintering birds in Britain and Ireland. T & A.D. Poyser.

More about the Bullfinch in Pembrokeshire

Bullfinch – 1894

Pyrrhula europaea – A common resident.

In the spring and summer the birds are, for the most part, concealed in the leafy copses where they are nesting, and, as Mr. Dix well remarks, they appear to be more numerous during the winter, because they then leave the woods.

We had always nests in our grounds at Stone Hall, and never interfered with these delightful little birds, in spite of the bad character they bear with gardeners for their destruction of fruit and other buds. One winter our paths were littered with the husks of our lilac buds; a flock of Bullfinches had been frequenting the bushes for days, and we thought sorrowfully that our garden in the following spring would miss the sweet perfume of the flowers; but, to our surprise, we had as good a show of bloom as we had ever had, so we then concluded the birds had only done us good by a judicious thinning of superabundant buds.

We are never without several Bullfinches in our aviary, the larger Russian variety and our homely “Hoop,” because there are no other little birds that are so easily tamed and become so affectionate. Mr. Tracy remarks: “Bullfinches, in confinement, if fed on hempseed, soon change colour, and in two or three years become black. One kept for several years at an inn in Pembroke was quite black, and afterwards changed again to his original colour, which was considered an ill omen, as the landlord died the same year.”

Mathew M.A. 1894, Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands

More about the Bullfinch in Pembrokeshire

Bullfinch

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLANBreeding resident

Bullfinch – 2003-07 breeding

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLAN – Breeding resident Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 139 72 Breeding probable 73 185 Breeding possible 127 63 No of tetrads occupied 339 (of 478) 320 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 70.9% 65.3% The Bullfinch is a relatively common resident of large gardens, hedgerows and lightly […]

Bullfinch – 1994

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLAN – Breeding resident 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 139 Breeding probable 73 Breeding possible 127 No of tetrads occupied 339 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 70.9% A common resident according to Mathew (1894) and Lockley et al. (1949), Bullfinches are generally distributed in Pembrokeshire, being absent only from open areas such as mountain […]

Bullfinch – 1980s winter

Pyrrhula pyrrhula – COCH Y BERLLAN – Breeding resident The BTO winter atlas showed that Bullfinches were present in most 10km squares during the winters of 1981-82, 1982-82 and 1983-84. The darker the colour, the higher the relative total count for each 10km square.  The darkest blue represents over 15 birds recorded in a day. The largest […]

Bullfinch – 1894

Species account from the 1894 ‘Birds of Pembrokeshire and its Islands’ by Rev M A Mathew