I am fascinated to learn about which birds are sedentary and which choose to fly to a sunnier climate in search of warmth during our cold winters.
It is a truly amazing feat that tiny birds can navigate their way hundreds or thousands of miles, and even more so, that they find their way back to the same spot when spring blooms.
Do chaffinches migrate, I wondered? If so, just how far do they travel seeking out the sunshine.
The male chaffinch is a home bird, and a tough little guy to boot. He remains close to his territory, even when winter rolls around.
The female has different ideas and chooses to head south, especially if the winter is a particularly cold one. She will remain there until the weather changes when she makes her way back to her mate, this usually happens in usually in early spring. If the weather is unseasonably mild, she might be seen in early February.
Scandinavian chaffinches must prefer the UK climate to their own, often choosing to migrate here for our winters that are less harsh by comparison.
If you have ever seen huge flocks of chaffinches during the winter, the likelihood is that they’re our continental friends. UK chaffinches are more likely to fly in smaller flocks, made up of mostly male birds. Native chaffinches are often spotted alone, preferring solitude to flock-life.
Another good way to tell them apart is their eating habits. The northern European chaffinches plunder farmer’s fields for remaining fruit and seeds, where the native bird opts to forage in woodlands, gardens, and hedgerows.
There are more than 7 million chaffinches in the UK, when our Scandinavian friends come to visit, the population almost doubles.
Do chaffinches migrate isn’t the most straightforward question. The answer is yes, no, and maybe!
Chaffinches native to the UK tend to remain in their territory or close by. Unless they’re female, in which case they may fly south to escape the worst of the winter.
Scandinavian chaffinches do migrate, Norwegian, Finnish, and Danish birds invade the UK en masse, where they deem the winter to be less harsh than anything they’re used to.
That has cleared that up nicely then!