Friday, 30 October 2009

Chaffinch Dilema

Last weekend my hubby and I popped over to Wallington Hall for a quick look at the action from the hide. At first there wasn't much about but as the noise level subsided the birds returned to the feeders. The Coal Tits were the first to appear along with a few Chaffinch. My camera started to play up and I was hoping it would be sorted before they disapeared. I managed to get a few shots of a curious bird which was amongst the Chaffinch and was pleased the photos' came out clear.
The top bird seems to be a Male Chaffinch as everyone knows I'm not to good at getting the I.D
right but I was looking at the wing bar and grey on the neck and am quite sure it is a Chaffinch. But the second bird doesn't seem be the right colour and although there is a wing bar it's more yellow than white, there is no grey to the neck and the wing colour is slightly different. So out came my bird book and I thought at first it was a Brambling, I hear you laugh hahaha . I then realised that Bramblings have dots on the rumps and this doesn't so I was quite stummped for a while. Any help to clear this matter up would be great.... I did think it may be a female Chaffinch but remembered that they are much duller and this is quite a striking little bird. So after many hours looking at my book and comparing photo's my final theory is that it is a young male Chaffinch. My guess could be totally wrong but I had fun trying to figure it out and to watch these birds for a good 1/2 hour was a delight and made for a perfect end to a lovely day.


  1. Spot on Michelle. The bird with duller wing bar (the large bar is on the greater coverts) will be a first winter male. If you look at the tertial edges, the three feathers that are obvious running down the wing towards the tail, they will be different too. The adult male will be edged in a chestnut while the young bird will be an off white. The white patch at the base of the primaries is smaller in the young bird too.

    As for Brambling, no need to be this technical. they look much more piebald than Chaffies even the females, and all ages and sexes have a nice orange tone rather than pink.

    Cheers Stewart.

  2. To be honest Michelle, I've just enlarged both pics and I think they are both first winters. They can be tricky and only the most obvious individuals can be aged in the field. In the hand we use things such as contrast in the greater coverts and the shape of the tail feathers etc.

    To complicate matters further our birds are joined by Scandinavian birds in the winter too that look slightly different.

    Best to just call the Male Chaffinches! :)

  3. Hi Stewart
    Thanks for the tip and clearing the dilema up for me. Birding would be a lot easier if the same species of bird looked the same but it wouldn't be half as much fun. I had a great afternoon and spent loads of time enlarging the photos for differences and that's what makes it interesting and fun ohhh and getting things a bit wrong from time to time
    Thanks again