The brambling

David Chapman

Is it a chaffinch or is it a brambling? Writer and photographer David Chapman tells us how to spot the difference between these two garden birds.



Chaffinches are common birds in the garden; in fact they are so common that we don’t always give them a second glance. My advice over the next few weeks is to look very carefully at them; you never know when one might turn out to be a brambling!

The brambling is a winter visitor to Britain from Scandinavia and since it comes from that direction it makes sense that most British sightings are in the east, but increasingly they are seen throughout the country.

About the same size as a chaffinch, the brambling can be identified by its orange-tinged breast rather than the pink of the male chaffinch.

During winter male and female brambling are similar though the male has a more extensive area of orange on his breast and a darker head.

One of the brambling’s most noticeable features, also serving to distinguish it from the chaffinch, only comes to light when it takes flight and that is its white rump which is surprisingly obvious.

Due to its stature the brambling has a similar diet to the chaffinch and will mix with its commoner counterpart in gardens feeding on seed scattered on the ground under bird tables.

In the wild, brambling enjoy feeding on beech mast and we always get more of them in Britain when the beech trees in Scandinavia fail to produce sufficient seed but any cold snap in November will send brambling our way.

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