Monday, 12 November 2018

The Irish Garden Bird Survey - Your county needs you!


The Irish Garden Bird Survey begins on **Monday the 3rd of December**, and we want you (and all your friends, family and neighbours) to take part!



We're really excited about this winter's Irish Garden Bird Survey. First of all, this winter is the 30th year of the Irish Garden Bird Survey, making it the longest-running citizen science research project in Ireland. Second of all, we're delighted to welcome the Ballymaloe Group on board as sponsors for the survey this year ! 


Every year hundreds of people take part in the survey, making it Ireland's most popular citizen science research project. Anyone who has taken part in recent years will tell you that the survey is easy and it's fun, so get involved from the start this winter and I guarantee you'll be glad you did! 

If you've taken part before, why not get your family, friends or neighbours to take part too? 



As far as bird surveys go, they don't get any easier than the Garden Bird Survey because the birds come to you! You can do it from the comfort of your kitchen window, in the mornings before school and work, and on the weekends too. See below for full details: 


How to take part:

  1. The survey runs from December to February - the coldest most wintery months, when birds are especially reliant on gardens for shelter, food and water. 
  2. Each week you just have to record the species you see on your feeders or in your garden, and the highest number of each species you see at any one time. 
  3. So if you see 1 Blue Tit today, but 3 tomorrow - then 3 is your total for Blue Tits this week. If you see 7 Goldfinch today and only 6 tomorrow, then 7 is your total for Goldfinches this week.
  4. The survey runs on a weekly basis, so every Monday you start over again! Don't worry if you miss a week or two - as long as you can do 10 of the 13 weeks then you'll still be giving us great data!
  5. It doesn't matter if you don't know all of the species in your garden yet - the survey is a great way to get to grips with them!
  6. *You can download the survey form here* or enter your results online here.


Garden Bird participants by county - lower numbers in the green counties, highest numbers in the red counties.




Make sure your county is represented in the Irish Garden Bird Survey! 



The greater the variety of gardens that take part in the survey, the more robust our results will be. We have the highest numbers of participants in the red and orange counties in the map above, with lower numbers in yellow and light-green areas, and the lowest participation at present in the dark-green counties. Help boost your counties representation by getting your neighbours, friends and relations to take part!

We tend to have more participants from counties/provinces with bigger populations, but there's still loads of people out there who could be taking part


Garden Bird Events

Lastly, if you want to learn more about how to feed your garden birds, BirdWatch Ireland staff will be speaking to our Wicklow, Laois and Roscommon branches on the dates below. We'll be happy to answer any questions you might have, and events are open to non-members too, so do come along!





Wicklow
- East Coast Nature Reserve, Newcastle - Sat 24th November @ 10am

Laois - Parish Centre, Portlaoise - Tues 27th November @ 8pm

Roscommon - Hannon's Hotel, Roscommon town - Thurs 6th December @ 8pm





Monday, 5 March 2018

The Irish Garden Bird Survey 2017/18 is now finished!


Despite what last weeks weather might have you believe, winter is coming to an end! Birds are starting to sing and pair up, and some are even nest-building (though they had other priorities last week...). Perhaps the biggest indicator that the winter is nearly over is that the Irish Garden Bird Survey is now finished for another year!

Don't forget to send your garden bird counts to us as soon as possible!!

Singing Robin - usually the most common bird in Irish gardens. Photo by B. Burke


This years Irish Garden Bird Survey started on the 4th of December, running for 13 weeks and finishing up yesterday. Hundreds of you have taken part, and many of you were treated to some interesting additions to your species list as a result of the snow last week - many people reported Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Snipe, Redwing, Fieldfares and even Lapwing as newcomers to their garden on friday and saturday. It's been great to hear about these unusual visitors, and we very much look forward to analysing all of the data in due course to really paint a picture as to how this winter has been compared to the years before.


With that in mind - please send in your garden data as soon as possible!! Regular participants will know that there are three ways to send in your data:




1) Through our online system at the link here:



2) Post in your form to us at: 
'Irish Garden Bird Survey, 
Unit 20, Block D, 
Bullford Business Campus, 
Kilcoole, Greystones, Co. Wicklow '


3) Or scan your recording sheets, including the one with your address etc, and email it to us at: 
gardenbirds@birdwatchireland.ie

If you've lost your recording sheet, or don't want to damage your copy of Wings, you can download a copy of the form here*Garden Bird Survey Form 2017/18*



Blue Tit - One of the most numerous species in Irish Gardens. Photo by B. Burke


The more eagle-eyed among you will notice the donation slip at the bottom of your form. We receive no funding to run the Irish Garden Bird Survey, to prepare the forms and the articles, to enter the data and to analyse the results, but we know it's a survey that is hugely important to the Irish public in general. With that in mind, please consider enclosing a donation with your garden bird survey form - however small. Your donation will help ensure we can continue to run the Irish Garden Bird Survey into the future. You can also make a donation over the phone - phone: 353 (0)1 2819878

We need your donations to help us to keep the Irish Garden Bird Survey going each year.

Male Blackbird - common in gardens during winter, and now thinking about pairing up for the breeding season! Photo by B. Burke


It was really heartwarming to hear of the genuine concern everyone had for birds and wildlife in the midst of Storm Emma and 'the Beast from the East' last week, and the lengths people went to to keep their garden birds fed. Please do remember that BirdWatch Ireland are fighting on behalf of Irish birds and wildlife throughout the year, and we can only do that with the support of our members.

If you're not a member already, please do consider joining us and adding your voice to support Irish birds and biodiversity. As part of your membership you'll receive our 'Wings' magazine, garden bird posters and leaflets, and loads more goodies.

Mothers Day is coming up, and a BirdWatch Ireland membership would make an ideal gift that keeps giving throughout the year!

BirdWatch Ireland members receive four copies of our 'Wings' magazine throughout the year, as well as loads of other goodies when you join! 



Friday, 2 March 2018

Irish Garden Birds - Gregarious Greenfinches

We hope you and your garden birds and making it through this very cold spell of weather. If you have any questions, we have prepared some information on looking after your garden birds during cold weather on our website at this link. And if you have any worries, feel free to ask us questions via our facebook page.

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Species Profile: Greenfinch

As Gaeilge: Glasán darach

Irish Garden Bird Survey Ranking 2016/2017: 15th

Conservation Status: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population is regarded as Secure by BirdLife International. Has been impacted by outbreaks of Trichomoniasis recently, with declines in northern and western Europe in the last 12 years.

Greenfinch. Photo by D. Dillon


Did You Know?
  1. Since 2005, Greenfinches in Ireland and the UK have been increasingly impacted by the Trichomonas  parasite. It causes disease in the back of the throat and mouth, which prevents the bird from feeding. Affected birds often appear fluffed up and lethargic, and the disease seems to be almost always fatal. See here for more info.
  2. If you see a Greenfinch, or other species, that looks sick you should take in your feeders for a week or so, and clean them thoroughly with a mild bleach solution. See here for more info.
  3. The increasing popularity of garden feeding has been credited with an expansion in their range further north in Scandinavia.
  4. Back in Victorian times they were widely trapped and kept in captivity, along with other finch species.
  5. Other local names for Greenfinch inlcude Green Linnet and Green Grosbeak.
  6. Historically they would have been a bird of woodland and forest edges, but in recent decades they've expanded to take advantage of food and habitat in hedgerows, towns and gardens.

How long do they live?
Greenfinches generally live for about two years. The oldest recorded Greenfinch in Ireland or the UK was 12 years and 9 months old!


What do they feed on?
Their big bill is an indicator that Greenfinches like large seeds. Where available they enjoy Rosehips, Yew and Hawthown, as well as Bramble. So if you're doing up your garden this spring, keep these species in mind! They will also enjoy sunflower seeds, and to a lesser extent peanuts, when provided in garden feeders.



Greenfinch. Photo by F. Mullan

Irish Garden Bird Survey Trends:
Greenfinch numbers tend to fluctuate quite a lot in recent years, and a lot of this is likely down to the spread of Trichomoniasis. As numbers increase in one year, the disease spreads more easily, and more birds get infected and die as a result. Their highest ranking was 5th place in 1999/2000, and they were in 6th place in several years up to 2005/06, but it was around then that Trichomoniasis reared its ugly head and numbers have suffered ever since.

Average number of Greenfinch per garden during the Irish Garden Bird Survey.


Movements and Migration:
As you can see from the map below, there is some movement of Greenfinch each year. Birds from Norway escape the cold and move down into the UK and Ireland, whilst some Irish and UK birds will head for France and the continent. Most of the Greenfinch that breed here don't move very far though!
Locations where Greenfinches from Ireland and the UK were caught elsewhere in Europe. See https://blx1.bto.org/ring/countyrec/resultsall/rec16490all.htm

How can I help Greenfinches?
Greenfinches regularly visit gardens during the winter, and will enjoy sunflower seeds, whether in hanging feeders or scattered on the ground. They will also eat from peanut feeders. Remember to keep an eye out for sick Greenfinches (or other finch species) and it's good practice to give your feeders a good cleaning every week or two to minimise the risk of disease transmission.


Greenfinches feeding. Photo by D. Owens

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Irish Garden Birds - Boisterous Blackbirds


We know from previous years of the Garden Bird Survey that around 98% of you will have seen a Blackbird in your garden this winter - in most cases you've probably seen one every week, or maybe even every day! With the cold conditions and heavy snow this week you might get a few more in your garden, especially if you leave out fruit.

Here's some facts and info that you might not have known about your regular visitor...

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Species Profile: Blackbird



As Gaeilge: ‘Lon dubh’


Irish Garden Bird Survey Ranking 2016/17: 2nd place


Conservation status: Green-listed in Ireland and 'secure' at European level. Results from our Countryside Bird Survey indicate that there are around 5 million Blackbirds in Ireland each summer.


Male Blackbird. Photo by B. Burke


Did You know?


  1. Blackbirds usually begin to sing around the end of January – a beautiful and easily-recognisable song. The first ones to start singing in the new year are males that hatched the year before, with older birds starting to sing around March.

  2. In urban areas, Blackbirds are often heard singing at night – confusing streetlights with natural sunlight. Blackbirds have large eyes relative to their body size so are often the first species to be active in gardens in the morning.
  3. Male Blackbird singing in the early morning. Photo by B. Burke
  4. The most common causes of death for Blackbirds, as revealed through ringing studies, are cats and cars!

  5. Blackbirds are a species of Thrush – just like Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare!

  6. Male Blackbirds are very territorial. Much of their territorial aggression is triggered by colour – the orange bills of other males. They’re much less aggressive to birds with yellow or brown bills, or Blackbirds with brown plumage – which means they don’t chase away females, and fledgling blackbirds don’t get harassed in their first few months either.
  7. Blackbirds are known to have ‘unihemispheric slow-save sleep’ – that is to say that one half of the brain sleeps while the other half is awake, which ensures it won’t get caught out by predators at night!
Female Blackbird. Photo by B. Burke



How long do they live?
The oldest known Blackbird in Ireland & Britain was ringed in Orkney in Scotland and was 15 years old the last time it was seen. The typical lifespan for a Blackbird is 3 years old though.


What do they feed on? 
Blackbirds are famous for hopping around on a lawn or in a field, occasionally pulling out a worm that they either saw or heard. They will eat other insects and invertebrates too, as they root around in bare soil or under leaf litter. Though they predominantly feed on invertebrates they do also eat seeds, berries and fruits, particularly late in the year.



Male Blackbird feeding on berries during winter. Photo by B. Burke



Irish Garden Bird Survey Trends:


You won't be surprised to hear that Blackbirds are seen in nearly every single garden each winter - on average they're recorded in 99% of gardens during the Garden Bird Survey! In most year they're pipped to the post by the Robin which is recorded in a handful more gardens, relegating the Blackbird to second place where it has sat in 14 of the 23 years since the Garden Bird Survey was revamped in the mid-1990's. 


On three occasions, most recently in 2009/10, the Blackbird sat in first place as the bird seen in most Irish gardens. Four times it has been overtaken by the Blue Tit and had to settle for third place, most recently in 2006/07. And in 1994/95 it had to languish in 4th place, the only time it was outside the top 3, with Great Tits recorded in one more garden than Blackbirds! 

Most gardens record 2 Blackbirds in the early part of the winter, with a slight increase as the weather gets colder and food supplies in the wider countryside diminish into late-December onwards.

Average number of Blackbirds per garden per week during the Irish Garden Bird Survey. Note the relatively stable trend, with high numbers during some particularly cold winters.




Movements and Migration:
Blackbird migratory movements from the BTO book 'Time to Fly'
As you can see from the maps here, Blackbirds move around a lot compared to many of the other species we’ve featured in this blog. In winter we get a large influx from cold countries in northern and eastern Europe such as Norway, Sweden, Finland and Germany. In some cases, these birds stop here briefly as they migrate further south into France or Spain, but many will stay here for the winter. On a clear morning in autumn or early winter you might suddenly notice a big increase in the number of Blackbirds in your area – fresh arrivals that will be busy feeding on berry-laden bushes in small groups, before scattering out more widely around the countryside for the winter.
Not all of the Blackbirds from these cold countries in northern and eastern Europe migrate - some stay put where they are, but research in Germany has shown that the ones that move to milder and warmer countries in the winter have better survival than those that stay put!


Locations where Blackbirds from Ireland and the UK have been recorded in other countries. For full details see BTO website here.


How can I help Blackbirds?

Blackbirds usually nest low down in a covered area such as a tree or shrub. They will sometimes use a well-placed open-faced nestbox however (the same type used by Robins). These boxes are available from the BirdWatch Ireland shop, and now is a really good time to put them up!

See this link here for nestboxes for Blackbirds and other birds in our shop.




Blackbirds tend to feed on the ground and won’t really be seen perched on the side of a feeder. They will eat mealworms or seed that has fallen on the ground however and peck at fatballs if they can perch on the feeder (ideally it’d be slanted so they can sit on top, though that might also attract crows…). If you have bushes with berries then you’re probably familiar with the sight of one or more Blackbirds carefully eating every single berry over the course of a winter, so planting bushes that bear fruit at the end of the year is a fantastic thing to do for your Blackbirds and other species too.


If you're a Blackbird fan, we have a very popular Blackbird soft toy available in our shop for only €9, which sings a Blackbird song when you squeeze it!


We also have singing soft toys of Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Great Tit and  Goldfinch!
 


We also have a Blackbird pin badge available for a donation of €2 - and plenty of other garden bird, owl, raptor, seabird and waterbird species available too!



 


And finally...
Your BirdWatch Ireland Membership Pack.
A reminder too that one of the best things you can do to help birds and wildlife in Ireland is add your voice to the cause by becoming a member of BirdWatch Ireland
Blackbirds tend to survive well in a  variety of habitats, but other species need our protection or we could lose them from Ireland completely. We protect Ireland's birds and wildlife through our conservation projects, through our monitoring projects that let us know what species are in trouble and where, and through our policy and advocacy work where we lobby politicians and other groups to ensure that our birds and wildlife have a voice!



BirdWatch Ireland members receive our 'Wings' magazine four times per year.

We have numerous membership options available, and all members receive our Wings magazine four times a year, as well as garden and seabird posters when you join!



Monday, 26 February 2018

The Beast from the East - feed your garden birds!

With the 'beast from the east' on the way this week we thought we'd provide a little reminder to feed your garden birds this week:

The period from late autumn to early spring is often one of great avian activity in gardens, with birds forming flocks and seeking out sources of food to get them through the cold winter months. During periods of particularly cold weather, the food you provide in your garden might be the difference between life and death for some birds - particularly the smaller species.

With that in mind, we thought we'd offer a reminder of the different options available when it comes to feeding your garden birds. 

You know you're doing a good job of feeding the birds when they trust you this much! Photo by Brian Carruthers

What food you might want to put out will vary depending on the size and type of your garden, the birds you either expect to get or want to attract, and the severity of the weather.  In general, you can't go too far wrong with most of the bird foods out there, but the below info will help steer you in the right direction for how to best attract and feed the birds in your garden!

Some Garden Feeding Tips:

  1. Keep your feeders within a metre or so of trees and hedges where possible - this will help birds find them in the first place, and they'll feel safer when feeding too because they know shelter is just a short hop away if a hunting Sparrowhawk makes an appearance!

  2. As well as food, it's good to provide water for your garden birds, particularly on cold mornings when natural sources of water are frozen over!

  3. Clean your feeders regularly to prevent the spread of illness among your garden birds. A dilute bleach solution (5%) is perfect, and dry everything before putting them out again. It can be a good idea to just half-fill your feeders so that you can take them in for a cleaning on a weekly basis. Give your bird bath a regular clean too! The spread of trichomonosis has devestated Greenfinch numbers in Ireland and Britain, and good feeder hygeine is the best way to prevent it.

  4. Variety is key! If you want a variety of birds, then put out a variety of food-types in a variety of locations. Try a few different things until you find what works best for your garden!

  5. Don't put out any food with mould on it as it will make the birds sick, and can prove fatal! It's better to put out small amounts of food every few days, rather than filling your feeders to the brim and for some of the food to go mouldy.

    A cat eating a Garden Bird - there are a few steps you can take to prevent this! Photo by Flickr user Bad Kitten
  6. Beware of cats! You'd be shocked at the amount of birds that are lost to cats, and your local cat is probably taking a lot more birds than you realise. Don't have any bird food on the ground near hedging or flower pots that a cat can be hiding behind, and make sure your feeders are 5-6 feet off the ground as cats can be amazingly agile jumpers when they want to be! The reason you're feeding your garden birds is to help them get through the winter, so don't undo your good work by making it easy for cats to catch them!

  7. If you have problems with Rooks and Jackdaws, hang your feeders on a length of elastic - the larger birds will be too heavy to land on it without bouncing up and down, and will leave the feeder alone! Also, some of the Squirrel-proof feeders can also be crow-proof! 


Now, onto the food! Don't forget that our BirdWatch Ireland shop sells a wide variety of bird food and feeders, and your money helps fund our vital conservation efforts around the country - so you're helping birds in two ways by buying food from us!

Our BirdWatch Ireland shop is full of bird food, feeders and much more. You can shop online, over the phone, or call into us in Kilcoole. http://shop.birdwatchireland.ie/birdwatchireland/


Peanuts

Peanuts are incredibly popular for a number of reasons. Most species will feed on them - including most of the finches, tits and robins! There's also very little waste or spillage with peanuts, so they're both tidy and cost-effective! They're high in protein and calories, which is good news for small birds trying to get through the winter! Make sure you put them in a suitable peanut feeder (i.e. with mesh-type sides) and you can't go wrong! Beware of mouldy or shriveled-up peanuts as they can highly toxic to birds!

Blue Tit on a peanut feeder. Photo by B. Burke


Sunflower Seeds
Another popular and solid choice - excellent for species like Coal Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits, as well as Goldfinches and other species. Chaffinches love them too, but might be more likely to take those that have spilled on the ground rather than take them straight from the feeder. With that in mind, if you're worried about cat predation then maybe stick to the peanuts!

Sunflower hearts (left) and a mix of black and striped sunflower seeds (right). Photo by ABF via Wikimedia

Sunflower seeds come in a variety of forms. Black sunflower seeds have a higher oil level and energy value than the striped-seed ones, but you'll pay more for them as a result. If you're worried about a mess, you can buy sunflower hearts (i.e. seeds without the shell!) and save your birds a bit of effort when they're trying to tuck in! When it comes to cost, sunflower hearts are one of the more expensive foods out there, but calorie-wise they do beat the peanuts!

Sunflower seeds are great for a variety of birds - including Greenfinch and House Sparrow. Photo by Brian Carruthers


Seed Mixes
Seed mixes can very much vary in ingredients and quality - the cheaper ones in general will have a high proportion of cereal than the others, though these are enjoyed by House Sparrows and Pigeons. The better ones tend to have more sunflower seeds/hearts and other small seeds, and will attract Finches and Tits. You're likely to get a a lot the smaller seeds falling on the ground, but that's not a bad thing in itself as birds like Collared Doves and Pigeons prefer to feed on the ground, and a lot of the finches will happily drop down too. Again, if cats are a concern, you can just spread some seed out on a bird table or dish on a stand and those same species will happily avail of it there instead.

A Robin taking seed from a tray, rather than a hanging feeder. Photo by B Burke

Nyger Seed
You might have heard of this, but it's still only provided in a minority of gardens. Nyger seed is a very fine thistle-like seed that is incredibly popular with Goldfinches - so much so that it's been implicated in their rise up the garden bird rankings in the last twenty years. So if you're looking to get a bit more gold in your garden, this might just do the trick.

A Goldfinch feeding from a special Nyger Seed Feeder. Photo by D Coombes

Drawbacks with Nyger Seed include a lot of the seed falling in the ground, and the fact that you'll have to get a specialised feeder for it, though that might be a small price to pay for an abundance of Golfinches! With a bit of luck, it'll attract some of their smaller finch cousins too - the Siskin and the Redpoll.


Fatballs and Suet Pellets
You can buy ready-made fatballs made from lard with some seeds mixed in, or there's an increasing variety of suet pellets that can be bought that will do the same job. Some people find that the local Rooks and Jackdaws take the lions share of their fatballs, but this can be solved by chopping them up a bit and putting them in a peanut feeder, meaning only the small birds can reach it with their bills! Some fatballs come covered in netting but this is best removed as it can get stuck around the feet of birds and cause them to get cut or trapped!

Long-tailed Tits and a Blue Tits tuck into the last remaining fatball! (Photo by Flickr user Airwolfhound)

There's plenty of fatball/suet pellets to buy, but you can just as easily make your own at home with lard and suet. Feel free to mix in seeds, dried fruit, raisins, oatmeal, grated cheese, meat trimmings, bacon rinds and bits of cake and other scraps! A good ratio is half a pound of fat per pound of dry ingredients, and you can hang it up in a coconut shell or yoghurt pot (or get creative with something else!). The one thing to avoid is turkey-fat, it only causes problems for the birds you're trying to help such as greasing their feathers and preventing them from flying.



Robin with a Mealworm. Photo by Philip Heron
Mealworms
High in protein, and popular with Robins and the various Tit species. You can put these on a bird table, in a feeder, or get creative and put them in various cracks and crevices for Robins, Wrens and Dunnocks to find! For birds that naturally feed on caterpillars and insects these are a real winner! You can mix them in with seed or add them to your home-made fatballs for some nutritious variety! Cost-wise they're on the upper end of the scale, so it's best to not put a huge amount out at once in case a hungry rook or Magpie finishes the lot!










Fruit
Anyone with apple trees in their garden will no doubt be used to Blackbirds and Thrushes as regular visitors. Apples and pears sliced in half and left on the ground will attract them too, and if you're lucky you might get one of our migrant thrushes - a Redwing or Fieldfare. You can place these half-apples/pears in trees too, and on a cold day these can prove very popular with Blackcaps when speared on the end of a branch.

A male Blackbird availing of an apple left out on a tree.


So there you have it, some tips for feeding garden birds this winter and some of the pro's and con's of the various foods that are out there. Why don't you let us know what foods you find work best in your garden? We'd also love to see photos of the birds on your bird feeders, so please do post them on our page throughout the winter!


Don't forget that by buying your food from us - in the shop, online or over the phone - your money will go that extra mile in helping to protect Ireland's birds and biodiversity! 





 Place an order over the phone: 01-2819878

Or drop into us at: Bullford Business Campus, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow








Irish Garden Birds - Bulky Bullfinches

We're into the final week of this winters Irish Garden Bird Survey, and with a record-breaking cold snap set to hit the country this week it's really important that you provide your garden birds with both food and fresh (unfrozen!) water to see them through to the nesting period.

Some species are notorious for appearing in gardens in the last few weeks of the survey when natural foods in the countryside have been depleted, so be sure to keep an eye out in the coming days to see if you can add to your species total for the winter!

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Species Profile:
Bullfinch

As Gaeilge: ‘Corcan coille

Irish Bird Survey Ranking 2016/2017: 21st place, occurring in just over 40% of gardens. 

Conservation status: Green-listed in Ireland. BirdLife International has evaluated the European population as Secure.

Male Bullfinch on BirdWatch Ireland's 'Wings' magazine back in 2010. Photo by E. Dempsey


Did You Know?
  1. Bullfinches get their name from their heavy build and thick “bullish” neck, compared to most other common finches.
  2. Their scientific name is Pyrrhula pyrrhula - pyrrhula means 'flame coloured bird' in latin.
  3. Their large stubby bill is specially adapted for eating buds, and they're particularly fond of buds on fruit trees like apple, pear and cherry trees. This unfortunately means they can be quite problematic in commercial orchards. There is research that indicates a fruit tree can lose half its buds without the harvest being affected however, so their impact on orchards can be overstated!
  4. Bullfinches are more often than not seen in pairs and they form strong and lasting pair bonds. Both males and females have a large black cap, a grey back, black wings with a pale wing bar, a black tail and a white rump above the tail which can be a useful way to identify them in flight. Males have a strong-red belly, while females and juveniles are a much duller brown colour.
  5. There are 7 subspecies of Bullfinch. Those in northern Europe are significantly bigger than the ones we get in Ireland.


Female Bullfinch. Photo by J. Fox


How long do they live?

Bullfinches live to be about 2 years old. The oldest recorded Bullfinch in Ireland and the UK was over 12 years of age (that’s 6 times its expected lifespan!)

What do they feed on?

Its diet mainly consists of the buds of native trees (Oak, Cherry, Hawthorn) as well as seeds and berries. They also take insects when feeding their young.


Male Bullfinch. Photo by M. Finn


Irish Garden Bird Survey Trends:
Last year Bullfinches were recorded in a little over 40% of gardens; putting them in 21st position in the Irish Garden Bird Survey. Since winter 1994/95 they've had some ups and downs but have always ranked somewhere between 20th and 30th place, with one exception in 1997/98 when they reached 17th place - their highest ranking to date.

Average numbers of Bullfinches per garden each winter (blue) and averaged out over a rolling 5-year period (orange).




Since the mid-1990's there has been an increase in the average number of Bullfinches per garden, an increase which is also evident from our summer Countryside Bird Survey (CBS) results (see graph left). Part of their increase in gardens is likely a result of relatively recent use of garden bird feeders.







Movements and Migration:

In Ireland, Bullfinches are resident, with very few ring recoveries between Ireland/UK and mainland Europe. In general they will stay close to where they breed, but periods during the winter will likely have them moving further afield in search of food. They're not territorial outside the breeding season though, so if you're lucky you might see a few together, though they don't tend to flock together like Chaffinches, Greenfinches or Goldfinches.

Their preferred habitat is broadleaf and conifer woodland, so if you have some nice woodland nearby or some big trees in your garden you're more likely to get them visiting.



How can I help Bullfinches?

Providing bullfinches with feeders with their favorite seeds (such as sunflower seeds) can aid in their survival, especially during cold weather at this time of year when natural food sources have been depleted. See our range of bird feeders and feeds on our website: https://shop.birdwatchireland.ie/birdwatchireland/

The BirdWatch Ireland shop - visit us in Kilcoole or order via phone or on our website. 


And finally...
Your BirdWatch Ireland Membership Pack.
A reminder too that one of the best things you can do to help birds and wildlife in Ireland is add your voice to the cause by becoming a member of BirdWatch Ireland
Blackbirds tend to survive well in a  variety of habitats, but other species need our protection or we could lose them from Ireland completely. We protect Ireland's birds and wildlife through our conservation projects, through our monitoring projects that let us know what species are in trouble and where, and through our policy and advocacy work where we lobby politicians and other groups to ensure that our birds and wildlife have a voice!



BirdWatch Ireland members receive our 'Wings' magazine four times per year.

We have numerous membership options available, and all members receive our Wings magazine four times a year, as well as garden and seabird posters when you join!




The Irish Garden Bird Survey - Your county needs you!

The Irish Garden Bird Survey begins on **Monday the 3rd of December** , and we want you (and all your friends, family and neighbours) to t...