Do Chaffinches Mate for Life?

There are more than 6.2 million chaffinches in the UK and a further 2 million in Ireland. They are beautifully marked little birds, around the size of a sparrow, that can often be seen in our gardens foraging for food beneath feeders and hedgerows.

When I learned of just how common the birds are, it made me wonder, do chaffinches mate for life, and do they stay together year-round?

The male chaffinch is quite the home-bird. Once he has found a safe territory, chosen a mate, and successfully raised a brood, he doesn’t move far.

The female, on the other hand, usually prefers to head south to sunnier climes during winter, leaving the male holding the fort.

However, in early spring, she will make her way back to the same territory to pick up where she left off with her former mate and to begin the process over again.

The Bachelor Finch

Often referred to as the bachelor bird, the scientific name for the chaffinch is Fringilla Coelebs. This is derived from the Latin words for an unmarried small bird.

This is thought to have stemmed from a discovery decades ago in Sweden when all of the chaffinches in the census were found to be male. It was later found that the females had migrated until the weather warmed up and that the male chaffinches were only ‘unmarried’ for the duration of the winter.

Breeding Chaffinch Pairs

It is easy to understand why the chaffinch waits faithfully for his mate to return. He knows when he’s on to a good thing as she is a hard-worker. Not only does she incubate the 2-8 eggs they have, but she does the majority of the hunting for small invertebrates on which to feed them.

They live in parks, woodland, and gardens, and make their homes in hedgerows, tall shrubs and some trees. The chaffinch’s nest is a work of art; a perfectly moulded cup-shaped nest made from moss, lichen, grass, and roots, all bound together with spider’s webs. It is lined with wool and feathers and makes a perfect save haven for the hatchlings.

After all of this hard work you’d think the mating pair would reuse the nest, but they don’t.

Once the female returns they set about building a new nest, in the same territory.

The male ensures he holds the territory by singing his lovely song, very loudly, to ward off any takeover attempts.

After all, he needs to remain in the same place so that his true love can find him year after year.

Life Expectancy of the Chaffinch

The average life span of the chaffinch is 3 years, though few live much longer. This bond stays true, providing, at the very least, 2 romantic reunions and maybe more for each chaffinch pair.

Final thoughts…

If you’re lucky enough to have chaffinches in your garden, now that you know the answer to do chaffinches mate for life, you will know that if it is summer, it is most probably a monogamous breeding pair.

If you see 2 chaffinches near to each other in winter, they are very likely to both be male, and one is attempting to muscle in on the other one’s territory.

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