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Old 30th October 2014, 09:38 PM   #1
Jenny
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Default Bullfinches

Never had any before but this year a pair have turned up and seem to have nested successfully. Are they normally such bullies (no pun intended)? Even the greenfinches seem to steer clear when they're around.
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Old 4th November 2014, 11:47 AM   #2
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Hi Jenny, that's quite unusual as Bullfinches are normally very shy. They seem to pair for life and usually stay together throughout the year, with the female being the more dominant of the two. Are they driving other birds away from food or just generally aggressive, and are both birds equally pugnacious please?

Great birds to have in the garden!
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Old 4th November 2014, 11:47 PM   #3
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Hi Martin, Female seems to be boss, with male more like keeping a lookout but both have been very determined to deter other birds from "their" patch of dock seeds for example.

Sorry, should explain that my garden is very much a jungle as son and I look after my Mum who's blind, wheelchair-bound with dementia and some of the big jobs need both of us for safety. The "garden is roughly square 80m x 30m but includes two levels with a near vertical bank between the two for the most part. Half of the bank is facing north and shaded by hazel, sycamore, rowan, beech and willow and the other half faces SE, not shaded. Both parts are a mass of wild flowers. What was a rough lawn has a lot of docks and dandelions - this has been an amazing feast for the birds this year with, particularly, the goldfinches and the bull finches. If the bullfinches fancy a bit of dock the goldfinches are on, they'll both fly at them to chase them off and, this accomplished, the male usually returns to the previous patch. As for being shy, these two will happily sit there on their respective patches of dock whilst either my son or I, with elderly dog, are on our patio (which is now the potting area!), maybe 8 - 10 feet away from them!

I too thought that them being so bold was odd so we've been trying to keep a mental log of their behaviour. With this being such a great year for plants with so many seeds and berries, it's only lately that I've started putting food out again. Normally, the greenfinches disappear from the garden June time and return about now; it's not different this year. What is different is that the bullfinches don't like their presence on the hanging feeders (2 bird seed cake feeders, a peanut and 1 seed feeder). The bullfinches ignore the big seed feeder and the nyjer seed feeder, both on poles. Their tactic seems to be to wait until birds are on the feeders and then fly across close to the feeder, scaring the birds off the feeder and causing it to swing, with seed landing on the ground which they go for. Both male and female do this. Neither son nor I have seen either bird on the feeders themselves. Goldfinches on the nyjer seed seem to be more resilient to this and come back quickly but other birds head for the big feeder on the pole. It doesn't seem to deter other birds from picking up the seeds that fall (the dunnocks in particular seem to have cottoned on to this bonanza) but the greenfinches will only use the pole standing feeder - which is odd because they were the big bullies until this year.

What may be useful for you to know is that I have another seed feeder on the opposite side of the house - this is almost exclusive sparrow territory! The sparrows rarely visit the other half of the jungle.

Honestly, Martin, it's my first regular encounter with bullfinches, it's exciting and we've so enjoyed watching them - I'd no idea this was odd.

Oh, they also like wild strawberries and raspberries - of which we have a lot! Not too happy about that!
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Old 4th November 2014, 11:58 PM   #4
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Whilst I've got Internet connection, Tawny owls have had two broods (and are thankfully reducing the amount of shrews, voles, etc. in our bank). Son let dog out late the other night and one flew right across him with prey. Frogs, toads, lizards all back with a vengeance, plus slow worms and even hedgehogs returned. Place has been alive with bees, butterflies and bats are back at the old nursery. And three different types of wild orchid - wow!

The place looks like a jungle and can be cringeingly embarrassing but we have little enough at the moment in our lives and those moments are very precious.
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Old 6th November 2014, 02:35 PM   #5
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Hi Jenny, your garden sounds like a great haven for local wildlife and flora! It's interesting that the Bullfinch pair are so comfortable with people but aggressive to other birds. The species can use hanging feeders but yours seem to have found an easier way of feeding!

It's also interesting that the sparrows stick to the feeder on one side of your property. I have a small flock at home that do exactly the same, and at work they will queue up to feed on the sunflower hearts in one of our large conqueror feeders, but very rarely use an identical feeder sited in the same sort of cover just 5 metres away. The feeder they use is further away from the colony's nest boxes than the one that they ignore, so their preference is hard to explain.

Dock seeds are a great favourite with Bullfinches, and I've also seen impressive numbers of the birds feeding on spent blackberries in bramble beds during the winter. It's a shame about the wild strawberries and raspberries though!

I think that a garden that feeds and shelters so many animals that, in turn, provide so much pleasure is definitely something to be proud of.
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Old 14th November 2014, 11:47 PM   #6
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Hi, Martin and thanks for kind comment! A couple of neighbours ain't too happy though and I'd like it slightly tidier - the growth this year has been amazing and at one point it was almost an assault course to get to the front door!!

No idea why sparrows go for the one feeder in particular, especially as it's nearer a neighbour's devil cat home territory but they do roost in another neighbour's leylandia trees and also have my holly tree, rampant escallonia and a mad rampant clematis (which has just flowered for the third time!) for cover.
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Old 15th April 2015, 09:12 AM   #7
Kerry L
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Jenny the Eagle is now Dr Jenny Livingstone eh? Intrepid explorer of the jungle garden. Be honest - the prickles are to stop Bambi!
I haven't seen bullfinches for such a long time. When I was young they were always in my parents forsythia bush. And I guess word is out that your garden is now a des res for wildlife. Just tell the neighbours that you are creating a microclimate for rare species of all sorts!
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Old 17th April 2015, 10:59 PM   #8
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Cheeky woman, Kerry! ;-) The good news is the bullfinches are back - not seen them much over winter but coming in regularly now - fingers crossed!

Bambi has been visiting regularly - despite the brambles but thankfully hasn't used the pond with the toad and frogspawn as a wallow as yet so there's hope some youngsters will survive. Bambi has been turning his attention to all the fresh new shoots - grrr!
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