What Do Bullfinches Eat

The bullfinch is a beautiful bird with a striking reddish-pink breast. They are instantly recognisable, so I am very aware that I rarely see any in my garden, I can’t remember the last time I saw some at my feeders.

One of the best ways to attract birds to your garden is by offering a selection of their favourite foods. I decided to research what do bullfinches eat in the hope of seeing some of these delightful little characters.

Bullfinches are notorious for their love of fresh tree buds, shoots, and the seeds of fleshy fruits. Although infrequent users of feeding tables, they are partial to sunflower seeds and hearts.

During the breeding season, bullfinches hunt for insects to feed their young; the adults invariably also eat some of these protein-rich, nutritious insects.

What do bullfinches eat in the wild

When the trees and plants are rife with buds in spring, bullfinches are in their element.

They enjoy the seeds of fleshy fruits, including raspberries and blackberries.

They also favour bramble, ash, elm, and nettle buds but when they are in scarce supply in late winter/early spring, they turn their attention to fruit trees.

Bullfinches love flower buds best as they are most nutritious, but they happily eat plant buds.

Their appetites are huge; they can devour 30 buds per minute!

From the 1950s to the 1970s, bullfinches were terrorists! They were such a pest to fruit farmers that some were granted licenses to control their numbers. Although this impacted their population, they are slowly recovering; they have finally left the red conservation warning zone and now sit in amber.

Are bullfinches herbivorous

Most breeding pairs have two broods per season, occasionally three. During this time, the adults seek out small invertebrates to feed their young.

Insects are usually rife in dense undergrowth and woodland that bullfinches inhabit at this time of year, so food is often easy to come by. If the climate or predation affects close food sources, adult birds fly distances to hunt food for their young.

Inside their mouth is a food sac; tucked away at the base. It is an incredible pouch to store food safely until they return to the chicks. Although some other species of birds have something similar, the bullfinch is the only member of the finch family to have evolved in such way.

Bullfinches are also adept at catching flies, another nutritious snack to share with their nestlings.

What bullfinches eat from the garden

Bullfinches are incredibly shy characters with a very quiet, melancholy song. They inhabit dense woodland and thick undergrowth in an attempt to remain unnoticed. To this end, they are a rare garden visitor; the Garden Birdwatch reported only 10% of gardens were lucky enough to see bullfinches.

If your garden is rural or bordered by thick hedges, the bullfinch is more likely to visit.

However, changing agricultural practices are forcing them towards hunting for food in parks and gardens more with each passing year.

As autumn rolls around and the seeds and buds become less abundant, bullfinches will travel some distance to source a food supply.

Their favourite is sunflower seeds, either the black ones or the shelled hearts.

They are agile enough to use the feeders and also eat from a table.

Any seed mix offered is likely to interest a bullfinch; they have good appetites and take in lots of food when the opportunity arises.

Suet blocks are something else the birds happily dine on. They are a great way of adding some variation to their diet (make your own, add fruit, oats, a little bacon rind, or diced nuts) Suet is also high in fat, something birds need to help them survive harsh winters.

Do bullfinches eat with other birds?

They are timid and usually steer clear of busy feeding tables, waiting instead until they can feed in solitude. However, you might see two bullfinches eating together; don’t always assume they are a mated pair.

As the birds stay in their breeding couple for many seasons, their territory is relatively loose; they don’t feel too threatened by other birds.

Therefore, two males happily share a meal at a garden feeder.

The Best Bullfinch Bird Food

I have had tremendous success using this bird food (full review also available here) to attract Bullfinches to my garden for the very first time.

The first Spring this food was out, a mating pair of Bullfinches made a nest in a nearby hedge across from our garden and came back and forth for the food.

This is a premium food and all birds seem to absolutely love it.

If you are interested in attracting more varieties and larger quantities of birds I recommend that you give this food a go, I have not seen results as good as these trying other products.

Final thoughts

Now that we know what bullfinches eat, we might stand a better chance of attracting them to our feeding stations.

Although they are reluctant to visit feeders, when winter is harsh and we have lots of goodies on offer, they tend to head towards gardens and parks.

Remember, if you are expecting an invasion of bullfinches, consider wrapping nets around your fruit trees!

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