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.


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

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


  1. Plenty of greenfinch down Ballymacoda,East Cork

  2. We are in Kildare, near Athy, and the Greenfinch was once our most common garden bird, but we haven`t seen a single one in over eight years, which is very sad.

  3. They show up when peanuts are on offer. Normally feed a mixture based on oat and wheat screenings with some millet etc (Aldi 12.5Kg) which they are not keen on.

  4. We have seen three greenfinches at a time around our back garden feeders here in Maynooth over the past couple of months.

  5. We live in W Clare and have suflower seeds and peanuts outr all year. the last two years has seen a big reduction in the number of greeenfinches. We only see one evey few weeks.

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The Irish Garden Bird Survey is over for another winter!

Time flies when you're having fun! The 2018/19 Irish Garden Bird Survey is now over! It's been quite a mild winter overall...