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By Christiane Goaziou

The Bullfinch belongs to the Family of the Fringillidae

The male Bullfinch is unmistakable because of its amazing colours; an orangy-salmony breast and cheeks and a black cap. The female, however, has a light grey breast and cheeks and a black cap like the male and both a white rump easily noticed when in flight and both have a black tail. The bill is short , black and strong, unlike the majority of Finches, which is thinner, with the exception of the Hawfinch which is similar to the bill of the Bullfinch but lighter in colour.

The Bullfinch is fairly common, but its conservation Status is not Green but Amber, because their population declined by 40% between 1970 and 2015. Recently, however,the population has been  increasing and in 2016, the number was 265,000.

The length of the bullfinch is 16 cm, the wingspan 26 cm, the weight 21gr and the life span is 2 years. The Bullfinch can be seen throughout the year but in the UK, mostly  in Britain and Ireland in lowland, Wooded areas, in coniferous and deciduous trees but also in fields, parks and gardens. Its flight is slow and undulating.

The Bullfinch diet varies according to the seasons; in Spring they feed on buds, berries and flowers. In Summer and Winter their main  diet is of tree seeds. Interestingly, similarly to the swift, the Bullfinch has a sac at the foot of its mouth to store food.

The nesting period is from May to July . The nest is chosen by the male and approved by the female and is made in dense undergrowth in hedges and conifers and is built mainly of moss, twigs and lichen.

There are usually two broods, sometimes three, up to five eggs hatching after 2 weeks and fledging 2 weeks later

As occurs with smaller birds, in the nesting season, the Sparrowhawk, usually the female, is the main predator.

To the people who listen to BBC Radio 4 on weekdays, a couple of minutes before 6 am you may listen to ‘Tweet of the day’ when someone famous or  less famous  talks about one of His/her chosen bird .

A few weeks ago, a person started to talk about the Bullfinch; at that moment, I had a ‘Marcel Proust’ episode  which happened to the writer when his grandmother gave him a madeleine, a cake which he had not eaten for a long time, and his past came rushing in his mind.

I had not heard or seen a Bullfinch for a long time and , suddenly, the past hit me and brought me back to my garden in Bradley Road when a male Bullfinch would come to meet me every day . He was so round and so colourful that I called him ‘My little apple’

The Bullfinch is indeed shy, not a ‘show off ‘like the lovely Robin  but he can approach people when he is called gently. We started to call each other, a short ‘peep,’ and each time I called him, he would call me back and get a little closer; it was a joy. I lived on Bradley Road for over 30 years and I do not recall how long he stayed with me but, like many small songbirds, their average Life span is 2 years. He must be long gone but now that he came back to me, I shall never forget him.