©Bob Coyle


Scientific name: Pyrrhula pyrrhula
The rose-red breast, large black cap and thick bill make the bullfinch easy to identify. A plump-looking bird of woodlands, hedgerows and orchards, it also frequents gardens.

Species information


Length: 16cm
Wingspan: 26cm
Weight: 21g
Average lifespan: 2 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

January to December


The bullfinch is a large, plump finch that feeds on buds and fruit in woodlands, hedgerows, parklands, gardens and orchards. Beautiful, easy to tame and skilful at mimicry, it was often taken as a cage-bird in times past. Shy and secretive, its melancholy call may be the only indication of its presence in a thicket. Bullfinches usually nest in shrubs, such as hawthorn and blackthorn, making a flimsy nest out of twigs and moss.

How to identify

If you get a good view, the male bullfinch is unmistakeable. It has a black cap, stubby black bill, grey back, black-and-white wings, a black tail, startling white rump and rose-red breast. Females display a similar colour pattern, but are greyish-brown, rather than bright pink.


Widespread, but absent from the very north of Scotland.

Did you know?

Bullfinches were once considered a serious pest in orchards, so much so that in the 16th century, Henry VIII condemned their 'criminal attacks' on fruit trees, and an Act of Parliament declared that one penny would be paid for every bird killed.

How people can help

Whether you live in town or country, you can help to look after garden birds by providing food and water for them.


Male bullfinch feeding on blossom © Tom Hibbert