Hawfinch wars

Hawfinches are abundant in the oakwoods around Boisjarzeau this Spring; the birds stay high in the treetops but give themselves away with their clipped tsick calls. At the bird feeders, they sit in the basket of sunflower seeds and don’t give way to any of the mob of other finches and house sparrows.

The hawfinches have a chestnut cap and black band through the eye and a black beard beneath the huge silver blue bill; close up they look like masked muggers. Males have a rich chestnut cap and announce their arrival with a harsh tsi-sick such that the duller, younger birds and females usually clear off. But sometimes they don’t and the birds front-up to each other like sparring walruses.

Haws Wars-3
After the finches fly, the great tits and blue tits are the first to steal in and lift a sunflower seed before the heavy-billed birds return

Greenfinches and goldfinches are equally aggressive to each other; siskins are quick and pugnacious but inevitably get pushed away. Chaffinches and bramblings prefer to remain on the ground and feed on the spillage. Great and blue tits nip in and steal way with a seed when no-one is around. At the feeders, the inter-specific hierarchy is clear: hawfinch is king, then greenfinch, goldfinch, siskin and at the bottom house sparrow and great and blue tits. Size and bill shape matter.


3 Comments Add yours

  1. John Parr says:

    Stonkers, Steve ! Really nice.

  2. Annie says:

    Reblogged this on Nature-Watching in Europe and commented:
    This post reminds me of how much things have changed. During the mid 1990s we used to get a dozen or two greenfinches at the feeders, now we haven’t seen them in the garden for some years. Siskins became regulars for a few winters, but they’ve gone too. Chaffinches came in relatively large numbers during the really cold spell at the beginning of March, and hung around for several weeks, but now we are back to four. Blue tits and great tits are now eyeing up the nest-boxes, and today there were two coal tits on the feeders. But I’ve never seen a hawfinch in Pembrokeshire. Maybe one day . . . .
    But for now, I’ll enjoy your photos

    1. Steve Parr says:

      Thanks Annie, there has been a big influx of them in the south east this winter too.

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