BIRD OF THE MONTH – Greenfinch

with Amanda Skull




Birdwatch picWelcome to this month’s Bird Watch with Amanda Skull.

I’m one of two Ambassadors for the BritishTrust for Ornithology’s (BTO) Garden BirdWatch Scheme in South Wales. Each month I introduce you to a bird or other animal that you might see in your garden.

The Greenfinch is similar to a House Sparrow in terms of size and, as the name suggests, is predominantly green in colour. However, look more closely and you’ll notice that the male has streaks of bright yellow on his wings and tail (particularly noticeable on a sunny day) and that the duller green-brown female also has these yellow wing bars. Traditionally a bird of farmland or wood-land, this species has only been a regular visitor of gardens since the early 1900s. Whilst the seeds of fleshy fruits like rosehips are preferred, those of trees such as Elm and Hawthorn will also be eaten, all of which are effortlessly broken into by the Greenfinch’s strong and robust beak. As food becomes depleted in one area birds must travel further afield to find new seed sources, but where food resources are plentiful several pairs may be found nesting in a small area. Whilst adults only eat seeds, their chicks are fed on regurgitated insects too.

Greenfinches are susceptible to the parasitic disease Trichomonosis, although it is not clear why they seem to be more vulnerable than species of similar habits; in some areas, between 2005 and 2006, there was around a 20% decline of the breeding population. Affected birds appear lethargic, fluffed up and sometimes drool at the mouth (though these may also be general signs of ill-health). You can help to reduce the risk of disease transmission by keeping feeders and water dishes clean. Instances of disease can be reported to Garden Wildlife Health (

Did you know?

Over the course of two months, bird ringing has shown that over 1,000 Greenfinches used a single garden; despite no more than 12 birds ever being seen together at one time! Look out for the Greenfinch’s ‘forward threat’ dis-play as they dominate the bird table or feeder.

The Welsh name is Llinos Werdd.

How to attract them to your garden: Greenfinches particularly enjoy sunflower hearts but will also feed on peanuts (always use a metal mesh feeder) and black sunflower seeds.

Conservation status: Despite recent local declines this species is still Green listed (no cause for concern).

Garden BirdWatch data show that since the outbreak of Trichomonosis, numbers of Green-finches in gardens remain lower than pre-disease. When I began the survey in 2004, I regularly had 40 or more individuals in my garden but now only ever see a handful at a time. Disease will have played a large part but perhaps it is also due to the increasing variety of bird species competing for food in my small garden.

Make Your Garden Count!

If you enjoy watching the birds and wildlife in your garden why not take part in BTO Garden BirdWatch – the largest year-round survey of garden birds in the world? Please contact me for a free enquiry pack or to book a talk.

Happy Garden Bird Watching!

Amanda Skull, Garden BirdWatch Ambassador 07952 758293 (evenings & weekends only) Follow me on Twitter @amanda_skull


Bay TemplateTHE WRITTEN WORLD EXTRA with Sarla Langdon

Orison for a Curlew by Horatio Clare (Little Toller £12)

For all the bird-lovers reading this column, here is a book that is as much about studying birds and respecting their habitat as it is the story of a search for the Slender-billed curlew (numenius tenuirostris), a bird on the brink of extinction, listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a ‘critically endangered’ species.

In Orison for a Curlew, the multi award-winning Horatio Clare takes us on a journey through Eastern Europe on the trail of this elusive migratory bird, introducing us to the dedicated conservationists who help him to visit remote areas where rare sightings have been recorded.

Clare’s quest for the Slender-billed curlew takes him from Thessaloniki in Greece, to Turkey, Bulgaria, Transylvania, Romania and Hungary, bringing him into contact with ornithologists and ‘searchers’ all with engaging personalities, all united by their hunger to have sight of the Slender-billed curlew.

Is his patient search rewarded? You must read this beautifully–written account of the struggle for conservation to find out.



Your chance to WIN Orison for a Curlew

We have a copy of Horatio Clare’s, Orison for a Curlew to give away courtesy of Little Toller Books.

To enter our competition, simply email with your name, address and daytime telephone number putting Curlew in the subject line. Or send the same details to Curlew, 1 Cae Banc, Sketty, Swansea SA2 9DN. First name drawn will be the winner. No cash alternative. Editor’s decision is final. No correspondence will be entered in to. Closing date for entries 30/06/2016.

See Sarla Langdon’s book review in Lifestyle & Leasure



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