Fringilla coelebs (Linnaeus, 1758) CH CHAFF 16360
Family: Passeriformes > Fringillidae

Chaffinch, Tom Streeter

One of Britain & Ireland's commonest birds, the Chaffinch was recorded across 94% of the UK during the Bird Atlas 2007-11. It is mainly found in gardens and woodlands.

Chaffinches are present all year in Britain & Ireland. The male’s pink, chestnut and blue-grey plumage with bright white wing bars make this species an attractive finch. The female is less colourful. Chaffinches are often seen at garden bird feeders and the species' distinctive song, descending the scale and ending with a flourish, can be heard in any suitable habitat throughout the breeding season.

UK Chaffinch breeding numbers increased by about a third between about 1970 and 2010, before falling sharply. BTO research has linked this decline to the disease Trichomonosis. In winter, the population swells with large numbers of migrants arriving from Fennoscandia. Chaffinches can form mixed flocks with other finches, exploiting the wild bird seed field-strips created by environmentally sensitive farming.

Exploring the trends for Chaffinch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Chaffinch population is changing.

trends explorer


Chaffinch identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Chaffinch.

related video

Identifying Chaffinch and Brambling

Chaffinch is one of our most common and familiar birds, but young birds and females are harder to identify than the stunning males. In winter, Chaffinches are joined by their northern cousins, Brambling. How can you pick them out in the midst of Chaffinches?

Help fund research into Chaffinch decline

The loss of Chaffinches in the UK requires urgent action now. We have developed a programme of research that will help to pinpoint the drivers of this decline. Find out how you can help.

... read more


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Chaffinch, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Young call



Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Chaffinch increased rapidly from the early 1970s until 2006, according to CBC/BBS and CES, but numbers seemed to stabilise for a period during the 1990s. The BBS map of change in relative density between 1994-96 and 2007-09 indicates that there were decreases over that period in a band from eastern Northern Ireland across Wales to Devon and Dorset, outweighed by increases elsewhere. However, decreases have occurred across all four countries of the UK since around 2010. Numbers across Europe have been broadly stable since 1980 (PECBMS: PECBMS 2020a>).

Exploring the trends for Chaffinch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Chaffinch population is changing.

trends explorer


The Chaffinch is one of the commonest birds in Britain & Ireland and was recorded breeding in 94% of all 10-km squares. It is absent only from parts of the Northern Isles, Outer Hebrides and a few west-coast squares in Ireland. The highest breeding densities in Ireland are found in Ulster, while in Britain they are in the lowlands of south, central and eastern England and on the upland edges in north England and Scotland.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Breeding Season Habitats

Relative frequency by habitat

Relative occurrence in different habitat types during the breeding season.

>Bar of similar size indicate the species is equally likely to be recorded in those habitats


Up to 2007–11 there were only minor changes in distribution. More recently population declines owing to trichomonisis could have caused local losses.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Chaffinch is recorded throughout the year, most often in spring when singing.

Weekly occurence of Chaffinch from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Chaffinch ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Chaffinch, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Chaffinch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Chaffinch population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Chaffinch

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Chaffinch population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Breacan-beithe
Welsh: Ji-binc
Catalan: pinsà comú
Czech: penkava obecná
Danish: Bogfinke
Dutch: Vink
Estonian: metsvint
Finnish: peippo
French: Pinson des arbres
German: Buchfink
Hungarian: erdei pinty
Icelandic: Bókfinka
Irish: Rí Rua
Italian: Fringuello
Latvian: žubite, pinkis
Lithuanian: paprastasis kikilis
Norwegian: Bokfink
Polish: zieba (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: tentilhão
Slovak: pinka obycajná
Slovenian: šcinkavec
Spanish: Pinzón vulgar
Swedish: bofink
Folkname: Pink


Interpretation and scientific publications about Chaffinch from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The drivers behind the long-term increases in the Chaffinch population are unclear, but it is likely that decreases in adult survival have caused the recent downturn. It is possible that the trichomonosis outbreak is responsible, but this is uncertain and the evidence for attributing the decreases to trichomonosis is less strong than that for the closely related Greenfinch.

Further information on causes of change

This relative stability was associated with a reduction in annual survival, which could be density-dependent (Siriwardena et al. 1999). There was also some evidence of improved breeding performance during the early years of population increase, with larger broods, fewer egg-stage nest failures, and more fledglings per breeding attempt, but these trends are now either cancelled out or reversed. Changes in adult survival now seem to be a greater contributor to annual population change (Robinson et al. 2014). The recent downturn has been linked to the widespread and severe outbreak of trichomonosis that began in 2005, being greatest in areas with a high incidence of the disease (Robinson et al. 2010b). However it is still unclear whether trichomonosis is the main driver behind the steeper downturn which began around 2012, or whether there may be other causes (Lawson et al. 2018). A study in Finland suggests that population declines resulting from the disease were less marked there for Chaffinch than for Greenfinch (Lehikoinen et al. 2013).

The trend towards earlier laying is at least partly explained by recent climate change (Crick & Sparks 1999). Chaffinches are well adapted to suburban and garden habitats, as well as to highly fragmented woodland and hedgerows, occurring less in the open-field, arable habitats that have been affected most by agricultural intensification, so it is possible that they have benefited by environmental changes from which other seed-eating passerines have suffered.

Information about conservation actions

As Chaffinch is widespread and has been increasing until recently, no specific conservation actions have been proposed relating to this species. However, actions and policies aimed at helping other farmland species are also likely to benefit Chaffinches. These may include actions aimed at increasing food availability over winter (e.g. overwinter stubbles, wild bird seed or cover mixtures, set-aside, buffer strips or uncultivated margins) and those aimed at improving breeding habitat and food availability during the breeding season (e.g. management of hedgerows and reducing pesticide and herbicide use).

The direct provision of supplementary food in winter, both in gardens and on farmland as part of agri-environment schemes, may also help this species, although the potential benefits may need to be balanced against negative effects through disease transmission. Whether or not the recent population downturn is linked to occurrence of trichomonosis, which has not yet been proven, this disease is known to affect Chaffinches and hence hygiene precautions are important in gardens where food and water is being provided, and stopping feeding should be considered if birds with the disease are observed.


Peer-reviewed papers
Chaffinch by Richard Jackson / BTO

Evolution of female song and duetting in the Chaffinch (Fringilla) species complex

2023 | Cooper, J.E.J., Garcia-del-Rey, E. & Lachlan, R.F.Journal of Avian Biology

Peer-reviewed papers
Chaffinch by Sarah Kelman / BTO

Habitat-use influences severe disease-mediated population declines in two of the most common garden bird species in Great Britain

Is there a garden feeding link to finch decline?

2022 | Hanmer, H.J., Cunningham, A.A., John, S.K., Magregor, S.K., Robinson, R.A., Seilern-Moy, K., Siriwardena, G.M. & Lawson, B.Scientific Reports

Peer-reviewed papers

Passerines may be sufficiently plastic to track temperature-mediated shifts in optimum lay date

2016 | Phillimore, A.B., Leech, D.I., Pearce-Higgins, J.W. & Hadfield, J.D.Global Change Biology

Peer-reviewed papers
Chaffinch by Jill Pakenham

Spatio-temporal dynamics and aetiology of proliferative leg skin lesions in wild British finches

Garden BirdWatchers allow us to better understand disease in British finches

2018 | Lawson, B., Robinson, R.A., Rodriquez-Ramos Fernandez, J., John, S.K., Benitez, L., Tolf, C., Risely, K., Toms, M., Cunnigham, A.A. & William, R.A.JScientific Reports

Weekly reports from BTO Garden BirdWatchers, as well as ad hoc sightings of disease from members of the public to Garden Wildlife Health, have aided our understanding of leg lesions (more commonly referred to as ‘scaly leg’ or ‘tassel foot’) in British finches.

Peer-reviewed papers
Wildflower Patch. John Redhead / BTO

The effects of a decade of agri-environment intervention in a lowland farm landscape on population trends of birds and butterflies

Can agri-environment schemes achieve positive outcomes for nature?

2022 | Redhead, J.W., Hinsley, S.A., Botham, M.S., Broughton, R.K., Freeman, S.N., Bellamy, P.E., Siriwardena, G., Randle, Z., Nowakowski, M., Heard, M.S. & Pywell, R.F.Journal of Applied Ecology

Links to more information from

Would you like to search for another species?