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Family Finch

from our Nature and Wildlife Correspondent, Sally Worby

This is a good time of year to enjoy finches with their bright colours, bounding flight and shallowly forked tails. Males often sing their simple songs from tops of small trees and hedgerows. Family Finch includes familiar garden birds: house sparrows, chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches as well as some less familiar: redpolls, bramblings, siskins, linnets and yellow hammers.

Flocks were once common feeding on wildflower seeds but changes to farming practices – fertilised and 'improved' grassland and chemical weed control – has pushed many species onto the Red List of declining or endangered species.

They have chunky bills for husking seeds with beak shapes adapted to different seed sizes and all depend on some invertebrates to feed nestlings. Small billed goldfinches, linnets and redpolls eat seeds of thistle, nettle and dandelions and acrobatic siskins feed on alder and birch. More chunky chaffinch and bullfinch bills can open sunflower, ash and elm seeds while the crossbill's extraordinary beaks extract seeds from pine cones.

Goldfinches are familiar with their tinkling calls, lovely colours and bounding flight, male linnets have pink chests and sing from hedgerow tops and ground nesting yellow hammers call out "A little bit of bread and no cheese".

Sadly an infectious disease spread by dirty birdfeeders wiped out nearly all of our greenfinches but they are making a slow recovery and their nasal "Twee" call is once again being heard locally.

Look out for these little birds and remember how they can benefit from seed heads left in place.

Sally operates the Graceful Badger Forest School in Drayton Woods with Wilderwoods and Central Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership. More info here

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