Goldfinch – ringing & migration

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

We see goldfinches all year round in Pembrokeshire, so it is difficult to know if we are seeing the same ones all the time, or if the winter birds are different to the summer ones.

Migration

Studies in England suggest that some 80% of goldfinches may migrate, but the extent and direction of the migration seems to depend more on food supply and weather conditions than on the birds being hard-wired to a particular route or destination (BTO Migration Atlas 2002).

Spring migration is most noticeable on the offshore islands. Analysis of records from Bardsey and Skokholm bird observatories show a marked increase in the daily numbers of birds seen in between the last week of March and the middle of May.  But while numbers on Bardsey have exceeded 150 on several occasions, on Skokholm they are generally less than 20 apart from exceptional counts of 80 in April 2013 and 143 in April 2014.

Skokholm autumn counts are rather higher, though still usually less than 100 in a day. The highest count was 285 on 14th October 2013. However, 2018 was a record year overall with counts of 114 on 30 September, and 119 and 170 on 6 and 15 October respectively.

Flocks are also recorded moving along the coast, for example 150 near Fishguard on 3 May 2016, 100 at Castlemartin on 23 September 2017, and 120 over Rosebush on 18 October 2018.

Ringing

The few birds ringed in Pembrokeshire and found elsewhere, or ringed elsewhere and found later in Pembrokeshire, are shown on the map above.  The bird ringed in Belgium was caught by a cat 3 years later near Narberth. The one that went to France was picked up dead a year after being ringed at Boncath.

For Wales as a whole, some 80 ringed goldfinches have been found across most parts of Britain, while a similar number ringed elsewhere have turned up in Wales. 

It is generally considered that Welsh birds migrate to Spain (the longest movement of a Welsh goldfinch was from Talybont-on-Usk to 180km south of Madrid), but the ringing data indicate there is also an interchange with Ireland.

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch 2003-07 breeding

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

Comparison with previous atlas:

1984-882003-07
Breeding confirmed8595
Breeding probable113254
Breeding possible9648
No of tetrads occupied294 (of 478)379 (of 490)
Percentage of tetrads61.5%81%

The goldfinch is common in areas of scattered trees and hedgerows, less dense woodland and gardens. It likes to nest in evergreen trees, particularly Cypresses.  Although the species has always been common, the population is somewhat cyclic, and is currently increasing.

From the 1984-88 breeding bird survey it was suggested that the population may be in the order of 4-6,000 pairs, based on a density of 15-20 pairs per tetrad. The number of occupied tetrads increased by 35% between the two survey periods. This is consistent with an increase of 39% shown by the BBS for the period 1994-2007, and there appears no reason to believe that our county population has behaved any differently than the national trend. This would suggest an increased current population, due to both an increase in density and distribution, giving a new figure of 6-8,000 pairs.

Richard Dobbins

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

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch – 1994

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

1984-88
Breeding confirmed85
Breeding probable113
Breeding possible96
No of tetrads occupied294 (of 478)
Percentage of tetrads61.5%

Mathew (1894) remarked that Goldfinches remained abundant in Pembrokeshire despite great numbers being taken in the autumn by bird-catchers. Bird-catching had largely died out by the time of Lloyd’s diaries of 1927-1933, in which he detailed a summer distribution that was very similar to the current situation. Lockley et al. (1949) described them as common. They breed in all parts of Pembrokeshire where there are suitable scattered trees, but are absent from open mountain areas, deep woodland and the offshore islands. At an estimated average density of 15-20 pairs per tetrad a county total of between 4,000 and 6,000 pairs is suggested.

After the breeding season family parties gather along the roadside verges, which are now important feeding areas for finches. The County Council have a policy of not spraying the verges and they become rich with grasses and other seed bearing plants which are largely absent from the mostly weed-free fields of today’s agricultural landscape.

There is a marked spring arrival from late March to early May, when they reoccupy breeding grounds that have been deserted during the winter and occur on the islands, where some continue to pass until mid-June.

Although occasional flocks are encountered during the winter it is probable that many emigrate, though we know of no ringing recoveries to confirm this. A small coastal passage has been noted between early September and November, when up to 35 a day move south while others head west towards Ireland. Goldfinches land on the offshore islands, including Grassholm, at this time.

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

LLOYD, B. 1925—1939. Diaries. National Library of Wales.

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch – 1980s winter

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

The BTO winter atlas showed that Goldfinches 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 26 birds.

However, it should be noted that the figures show a high correlation with the number of recording cards returned (therefore related to recording effort) for each 10km square. 

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 Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch – 1894

Carduelis elegans

A common resident.

Still abundant, in spite of the persecution sustained from birdcatchers, who take great numbers in the autumn when the birds collect upon the coast. We have been informed that thirty-three dozen were caught at one time at Fishguard. Mr. Dix says: “I have seen as many as sixty or eighty in a flock in the autumn and winter, feeding upon the seeds of the grasses in the meadows.” One summer we detected six nests in our grounds; the raspberry canes and some old plum trees covered with lichens, in the kitchen garden, providing the favourite sites.

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

More about the Goldfinch in Pembrokeshire

Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident

Goldfinch – ringing & migration

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident We see goldfinches all year round in Pembrokeshire, so it is difficult to know if we are seeing the same ones all the time, or if the winter birds are different to the summer ones. Migration Studies in England suggest that some 80% of goldfinches may migrate, […]

Goldfinch 2003-07 breeding

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident Comparison with previous atlas: 1984-88 2003-07 Breeding confirmed 85 95 Breeding probable 113 254 Breeding possible 96 48 No of tetrads occupied 294 (of 478) 379 (of 490) Percentage of tetrads 61.5% 81% The goldfinch is common in areas of scattered trees and hedgerows, less dense woodland […]

Goldfinch – 1994

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident 1984-88 Breeding confirmed 85 Breeding probable 113 Breeding possible 96 No of tetrads occupied 294 (of 478) Percentage of tetrads 61.5% Mathew (1894) remarked that Goldfinches remained abundant in Pembrokeshire despite great numbers being taken in the autumn by bird-catchers. Bird-catching had largely died out by the […]

Goldfinch – 1980s winter

Carduelis carduelis britannica – NICO – Breeding resident The BTO winter atlas showed that Goldfinches 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 26 birds. However, it should be noted that the […]

Goldfinch – 1894

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