The Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), the provincial bird of Kymenlaakso, is perhaps the bird species that Finns can identify most easily, even though it is rarely seen and even then it’s either on feeding spots or rowan trees feeding on the berries during late autumn or at winter. At summer, the bird vanishes from sight completely.
Still, the picture of this handsome red-breasted, black-crowned, gray-coated finch is imprinted at the back of every Finn’s head. Most of the Finns have never laid eyes on a live Bullfinch, but could still identify the species upon seeing it. This can be explained by the fact that year after another, the Bullfinch has remained as a theme animal in Christmas cards and gets its fair share of visibility in the illustrations of numerous children’s books.
The Bullfinch nests almost throughout Finland, excluding the northernmost Lapland. It’s a local bird, even though some of them leave to fly around at winter, and some migrate to middle Europe. During their nesting season, which begins at May, the Bullfinch isn’t seen much – in Finland they nest in thick spruce forests and lead a very secluded life for that time. The nest is built in a dense young spruce or a juniper. The female lays four to six black- and reddish-spotted bluish-gray eggs and broods them for about two weeks, while the male feeds the female. Despite of being a seed eater, the young birds are fed with insects. The Bullfinch very often nests twice in a summer.
The bird isn’t exactly renowned for its singing prowess, though it’s often mentioned to be a “flutist”. Jussi Seppä describes the bird’s song in his book “Linnut ja maisema (1945)” as follows:
“Its song can only be heard by walking in and listening to the spirit of the woods – then can one hear, from the depths of an evergreen tree, its deep, slow tune of a wooden pipe: “trjii tri, trji tjuu tjuu, tju tjuu”. The performance is somewhat contrived but particularly fresh. Sometimes the tunes seem to deflect and a discord is born, but then the bird once more finds its tune, and the performance continues, with its trembling sound, for a long time. Often the bird switches to the more bright-sounding tin pipe, only touching on the wooden pipes once in a while.”
By their appearance, the mister and the missus differ from each other, not by their patterns, but by the color of their breast and belly – in the case of the mister, they’re bright red, whereas the missus’s are of dimmer red, like that of a red berry porridge. The young birds look like the female, but without the black crown. The Bullfinch isn’t likely to be confused with any other Finnish bird species in terms of identification.
There are approximately 280.000 pairs of these flutists in our country. In addition to Finland, the species can also be met in almost the entirety of Europe, and in Asia. In Europe, some sub-species of the Bullfinch are also seen, with a slightly different coloration and nesting locations than the Bullfinch in Finland.
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