Mating for life and monogamy are 2 things that are often confused yet shouldn’t be. Many songbirds are monogamous; they form a couple during the breeding season and remain true to each other until their young have flown the nest.
Mating for life is a couple of birds that stay true to each other for life, forsaking all others. That sounds familiar?!
Very few birds mate for life, however, it has been scientifically proven that the bullfinch is one such bird. I wondered if their cousin behaved in a similar manner, and decided to find out, do greenfinches mate for life?
The bullfinch is a rather lazy bird that cleverly chooses to keep the same partner for the duration of their life, not out of love, but to save time and effort having to find another mate each spring.
The greenfinch is a much livelier and more gregarious bird. They remain faithful to their mate from courtship right through until their broods can fend for themselves, an entire breeding season.
But then, they all go their separate ways, see the winter out before beginning their search for a new partner.
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Greenfinches and Mating
The greenfinch may sound a love ’em and leave ’em kinda guy, but don’t be fooled, he spends a lot of quality time with his mate.
Their courtship can begin as early as January when the male perches in a tree and sings loudly to attract a mate. As they are mostly sedentary, there are usually plenty of interested parties.
Nest building and the lining is mostly the job of the female but the male is always at close quarters, prepared to protect her and their eggs.
The female incubates the eggs and their first brood usually hatches around May 10th. Both birds take turns feeding the nestlings, regurgitating seeds and insects to provide them with nourishment.
If the brood is mostly successful, the couple will attempt a second. Taking this into consideration, remembering that the birds don’t separate until the juveniles have flown, they are often monogamous until August.
The life expectancy of the greenfinch
As the bird doesn’t achieve sexual maturity until around a year old, and their average life expectancy is 2 years, there is a possibility that they might only ever have one mate.
However, the longest recorded lifespan of a greenfinch was 11 years and 3 months, that could be 10 separate partners and 20 broods in a lifetime!
As greenfinches are particularly susceptible to the parasite transmitted disease, trichomonosis, their lives and numbers are often blighted.
If one half of a breeding pair were to die, then the surviving bird would recouple the following season, as usual.
However, if the bird died from trichomonosis, it will very probably be passed on to the young and any other birds in their loose colony.
It seems that sadly no, greenfinches do not mate for life, but like 90% of the bird population, they remain monogamous during the breeding season.
The bullfinch is the only member of the finch family who stays true to their love for life, putting them in the impressive company of crows, swans, swallows, and albatrosses.