Birds on Stamps

Fringilla coelebs 

Fringilla coelebs

In English en

The Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) is Finland’s second most numerous bird, with a density of 300 couples per square kilometer at best (in Åland), with an average density of about 34 couples in the entire country. The total amount of Chaffinches fluctuates between approximately six to seven million couples, and is many times higher than that during autumn due to new young birds being born. The bird nests almost throughout the country, excluding the northernmost Lapland. The Chaffinch is a summer visitor, who migrates to Denmark and France for winter. During the last few years, though, an ever increasing amount of the bird has spent the winter in Finland, and during these times of climate change it might be possible that the trend will continue even further – just as has happened with the European greenfinch.

The migrating birds return to our country early at spring, even as early as March. The Chaffinch has always been considered as a sign of summer in Finland, as is said in a common summer-related bird-proverb about the Chaffinch: “…half-a-month from the finch”.  However, the artist / children’s book author Mauri Kunnas and journalist Reijo Ikävalko describe the proverb in their own tongue-in-cheek way in their book Hullunkurinen Lintukirja (eng. The Comical Bird Book) as follows: “… Equally silly is to claim ‘half-a-month from the finch’, since the first Chaffinches arrive to smell the winds of Finland already in March. Go ahead and try to be chipper as a chaffinch at that time of the year.” Our humoristic authors are correct at least when it comes to the current year 2010, when Finland is still covered in snow at the end of March, and there isn’t even the tiniest whiff of spring in the air yet.

In terms of size this commonly used comparative milestone for other finches is, unsurprisingly, the size of itself, that is around 14 to 16 centimeters in length. By its coloring the bird is easy to identify when it comes to the male in spring and in summer – the male has an intensively reddish-brown breast and cheeks. The head and the nape are bluish-gray, and in Finland the Chaffinch male has a brown back.

The male, the female and the young bird all share the characteristic white double-lines on their wings, the grayish-green rump and the white feathers at the edges of the tail. The female’s breast is light beige-gray and the overall coloration more bland than that of the male’s. The young birds are female-like in their coloration, until around September-October, when the genders start to appear more distinguishable.

In April the Chaffinch males begin to conquer their territory, which is easy to notice – the bird’s singing can be heard almost everywhere. In May, they begin to nest, and the nest itself is built by the female, as is usual for finches. The males participate when it comes to acquiring materials, but sitting on a vantage point and singing does seem to interest them way more regardless. The nest is built in a tree or in a bush, at the height of one meter all the way to ten meters. A well-camouflaged nest built in the root of a spruce’s branch could be considered typical.

The female lays three to six bluish-green, darkish-spotted eggs and broods them for two weeks. The hatchlings enjoy the comfort of the nest for two more weeks, while being fed by the parents. The Chaffinches often nest twice in a summer.

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