Greenfinches are one of the most easily recognisable of all the songbirds in the UK, their green and yellow plumage is a dead giveaway.
This makes them all the more noticeable by their absence.
As I don’t seem to have seen many greenfinches in my garden of late, I wondered if there was a problem and their numbers are in decline or is it something more simple, and they have gone in search of a warmer climate.
I decided to look into ‘do greenfinches migrate’, to put my mind at ease?
Both explanations have some relevance, though not wholly accurate.
Yes, due to the dreaded parasitical disease, trichomonosis, greenfinch numbers regularly decline. However, as they are willing to live close to man, the copious food supplies that our gardens offer, soon see their numbers replenished.
As for migration, most greenfinches are sedentary, they stay close to home all year round. Although, not all do, some break the rules and head south, with others travelling as far as Continental Europe in the search for the sun.
Which Greenfinches Migrate
It is only a very small proportion of the birds that choose to migrate and they don’t necessarily follow the same path annually. Greenfinches that migrate one year might remain at home the next.
Experts think this behaviour is the birds reacting to food and breeding availability more so than climate change.
The UK is a much sought after destination to many Continental greenfinches. Just as a small percentage of our greenfinch population is deciding it is too cold, their European cousins head this way, as they prefer our milder winter conditions.
Throughout the winter, this increases our already large greenfinch population of 1.7 million breeding pairs.
How to encourage greenfinches to stay
If a greenfinch has chosen your garden to build its nest, then I guess that you have conifers or some very healthy, bushy shrubs. And bird feeders. Plenty of them.
The greenfinch loves black sunflower seeds and their hearts. They will feast on mealworms and nyjer seeds. If you provide these, greenfinches will be attracted and you can fascinate at their dominance on the feeders. For such small birds, they fear no others and regularly squabble amongst their species and others, to get the seed they desire. They usually win too!
Although most of them are sedentary, yes, some greenfinches do migrate. If not to Europe, then they head south to hit the beaches in Weymouth, or maybe in search of food and shelter in woods, parks, or farmland.
This doesn’t explain why I’m not seeing them in my garden at the moment, they must have been frightened away by something or founder a better food source elsewhere.
Although, I didn’t think there was one!